Dr. Walter Greason
Norristown Times Herald
12 November 2013
The Season of Joy has officially begun. Holidays like Christmas, Hannukah, and New Year’s Day mark the time for people to reflect on and renew their values. The exchange of gifts, time with loved ones, and bountiful meals offer just cause for celebration around the world.
Many people’s fondest memories come from this season, and the legendary films and television shows about the holidays warm the hearts of anyone who has viewed them. From “It’s a Wonderful Life” to “Miracle on 42nd Street” to the endless series of college football bowl games, the joy of the season gains resonance from the shared experiences the media provides.
As the world’s superpower, the United States has an opportunity to model new traditions in this season. In this way, the Season of Joy can affirm the importance of rebirth and renewal while healing ancient divisions around the world. Holidays like Eid and Diwali offer everyone a chance to engage these same traditions from the perspectives of Muslim and Hindu communities. Eid reinvigorates a sense of faith and humility often sorely lacking in other traditions of excess and exceptionalism. Diwali emphasizes hope and resilience, despite any obstacle. It is an essential engagement for a world immersed in cynicism and distrust.
Kwanzaa combines many of the best virtues of the various global traditions by offering multiple days to meditate on the connections between individuals, families, and communities. It reminds all people of their African heritage, but allows for massive cultural diversity across religion, ethnicity, and nationality. Even more familiar occasions like Halloween and Thanksgiving can be re-imagined so that they can become more than a few hours of sugar consumption, followed by a return to desperate work days and worries about the next bills to arrive.
The range of celebrations and widespread awareness about their significance would have been impossible a generation ago. Young people born after 1990 are the first group to come of age in a maturing, global society that has struggled to find peace through a balance of unity and diversity. Asian, Arabian, Hispanic, Jewish, and African influences all found greater acceptance in the world (and tolerance for each other) over the last twenty years. The next step forward is the pervasive adoption of these traditions as daily, insistent parts of an inclusive, human experience.
Learn more about the holidays most unfamiliar to you over the next two months. Then, remember their lessons throughout 2014 to build new understandings of yourself, your family, and your neighbors.
Dr. Walter Greason is the Chief Executive Officer of the International Center for Metropolitan Growth and the author of Suburban Erasure: How the Suburbs Ended the Civil Rights Movement in New Jersey. His work is available on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, and by email (email@example.com).