(Editor's Note: This article was originally published on December 25, 2007. Your comments are welcome, but please be aware that authors of previously published articles may not be able to promptly respond to new questions or comments. We hope you enjoy it as we count down to Christmas.)
While in Brownsville, Texas I received a manicure from a Vietnamese lady and though we each had some difficulty with the language we managed to enjoy a conversation regarding the relative distances of our home countries. I left her shop and immediately bought a delicious churro from a young Mexican man who could barely speak English, but he enjoyed my euphoria regarding the delicacy of his pastry nonetheless. I attended a Veteran’s Day celebration with my father during which I met several Canadians – known down there as Winter Texans.
All while I was traveling I was thinking about a conversation I recently had with a dear friend…a doctor who owns and practices in a clinic in Blythe, California. He is from Zambia, still speaks English with an accent and tends to get in trouble at border crossings because he insists that he is American. In Colorado, we ran into some Swiss at a store, and tried to help them make their purchases. In Hawaii…oh my, Japanese, Korean, German and Samoan all helped to make our vacation a polyglot of tourism.
We are a country comprised of bits and pieces of many different cultures, so I was thrilled to find a newspaper article that actually clarified for me why "Happy Holidays" is a perfect sentiment for this time of year. December is a wonderful month. There is a holiday for/from some country or people EVERY DAY OF THE MONTH! From the Festival of Freedom and Democracy Day in Chad on the 1st, to Constitution Day in Nepal on the 15th, there is a holiday on each day in between. There are national days, political days, religious days and pagan days throughout the month. And though you may think of December 31st as New Year’s Eve, in Azerbaijan it is the Day of Azeri Solidarity, in Congo it is the Congolese Labour Party Day and in Scotland it is the Gaelic Hogmanay.
Here on Kwajalein we celebrate Christmas, much like most of America. We also have the eight days of Hanukkah, Las Posadas and Kwanzaa. For many people Christmas is a religious celebration, for many it is a time to enjoy the good to be found in people regardless of religious beliefs. It is a time of beauty, of generosity, of joy. The lights and music of the season, the general feeling of happiness and gentleness of spirit…from jolly Santa Claus to beautifully decorated Christmas trees, and the serenity of the Creche, all add to the celebrations of the other holidays of this season.
The dark, cold days of Winter need as much cheer as we can give them to encourage Spring to come back. Perhaps that is why there are so many holidays in December. Of course, in many parts of this planet December is the middle of blistering Summer heat…ahhh let’s celebrate Farmer’s Day in Ghana on the 6th, or Army Day in Vietnam on the 22nd. Sometimes a good celebration will help chase away excessive heat and humidity, just as it banishes ice and snow.
So, whether your Santa arrives on a surfboard pulled by dolphins, or on a sleigh pulled by reindeer; whether you are transported by Ave Maria sung by an operatic tenor, or Jingle Bells sung by Alvin and the Chipmunks; whether the brightly colored lights of the season light your way down a snow covered path, or a dry river bed…be they white and blue, red and green, or multi-colored…keep room in your hearts for all the holidays of this season. If you read the newspaper, or watch TV news, you may think we have precious little to celebrate. But if you look around you, at the faces you can see on the street, at your loved ones, at the bounty from your gardens, at the promise of the Spring, you will see that each moment of each day gives us myriad reasons to celebrate. Let us celebrate together, and share the joy.
From me to all of you - Merry Christmas, Season's Greetings, and of course - HAPPY HOLIDAYS!