Season of Faith & Celebration

Merry Christmas! to my Christian friends and those who follow Santa.

Happy Holidays! to everyone else.

The greeting “Happy Holidays,” as cheerful and simple as it is, has stirred impassioned controversy — despite the fact there’s also New Years Day too, a whole second holiday. It seems appropriate to wish happiness on both holidays, right?

Of course, that’s not the issue.

It seems to bother some people deeply that not everyone is celebrating Christmas. They’re disturbed when recognition is given to other traditions of faith and celebration. To me this diversity enriches life — but then I got to thinking how limited my knowledge is about these other faiths. I thought on this Christmas Day I’d look at the four main traditions observed in the U.S. and around the world: Christmas, Hanukkah (or Chanukah), Kwanzaa and Ramadan. I’ve selected videos that cover each.

One important thing stands out:

For all the differences between these traditions — the rituals and even some core beliefs — they all share important common values:

Compassion, Commitment, Responsibility, Love, Peace, Justice, Giving and Service to Others, Protecting Life and the Environment, and more.

Not everyone adheres to these values, of course. Religions are sometimes practiced with ill intent, used as an excuse to harm and oppress, injure and even kill. Sects, cults, political and ideological movements abound, but these are perversions of the faiths they claim to represent.

I hope you’ll take time to watch these videos. There’s a wealth of information here. Understanding our differences, and why, is actually a key step to seeing what we all have in common as fellow human beings making our way through this life.

I wish you all a very happy, safe and fulfilling New Year!



These videos present the backstory behind Christmas including how the church adopted as ritual what had been pagan practices. We also learn that Coca-Cola gave us Santa Clause as we know him.


Hanukkah dates back more than 2000 years, celebrating rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem after the Jews overcame Syrian-Greek oppression. Jewish history has been a long struggle against persecution, which continues. Today we see a disturbing rise in anti-semitism.


Kwanzaa is not a religious holiday in the same sense as the others here. It’s a weeklong celebration — December 26 to January 1 — during which African-Americans honor their heritage. Founded in the 1960s, Kwanzaa is guided by seven core principles, the Nguzo Saba.


In Islam, Ramadan is probably the period that most closely resembles Christmas, but unlike the other traditions here it takes place at different times each year. The Islamic calendar is based on the lunar cycle, causing Ramadan to shift. This year Ramadan ran from May 5th to June 3rd. In 2020 it will start on April 23rd and end May 23rd.

Title image adapted from Sissoupitch/

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