by Haim Factor
It’s that time of year again—when everything seems full of hope and love; that seemingly universal time for goodwill to all. Dismissing for a minute all of the commercial aspects and the insincere frills, you can sense the feeling in the air and you can feel it among people. You can hear and see the strong emotions all around. It’s that unique period for a better life for all us.
Of course, we can see on TV those troubling pictures and sounds of Iraq, Palestine, Africa, Korea, and other “trouble spots” throughout the world. But somehow, our hope and feeling at this time of year is that things can somehow work out and that all men and women will live in peace…
But did you ever wonder, I mean REALLY wonder, about what all those other people throughout the world think and feel—especially at this time of year? For them, many who are not Christians or, for whatever reason are not an integral and active part of our Western culture and Christmas-time traditions, this wonderful feeling may just not be there. For many of them, this time could be just another 4-5 week period of cold or misery—if they are located in the northern hemisphere—or maybe another period of heat and misery, if they’re in summertime south of the equator.
Take for example, the hundreds of millions in the Muslim world. A special month of joy and hope for abundance just ended a few weeks ago, as the major month-long holiday period of Ramadan came to a close. And for those of the Jewish faith, many people would be surprised to learn that although the holiday of Hanukah usually coincides with Christmas-time, Hanukah shares few if any of the central themes of Christmas. As a matter of fact, for many other cultures and beliefs throughout the world, this time of year may have a very different significance—or even no significance at all.
I know, you may smile and ask, “How can that really be?”. How can it be that this beautiful, universal feeling doesn’t permeate the entire world and at this same time?
Well, of course, this time of year is special—that is, if your tradition and culture embrace it. But many times, others simply don’t feel and think what we do, when we do. Period.
This is a sobering thought; one that could allow the chills and long shadows of this time of year to creep into our minds and our hearts, even as there is so much seeming hope around us. After all, if the beautiful and rich feelings of this time of year aren’t shared universally by all mankind when we feel them—then what hope do we have? Where do we go from here?
But there is hope.
And like in many other cases, we can find this hope not necessarily in the way we imagine or feel things, or in the way we frame our lives and beliefs. Read on.
The spirit of “this time of year” is, of course, real. No doubt about it. But this “time of the year” may not be their time. And this “spirit”, in our tradition and meaning may not be their spirit. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not proposing we all start to learn non-stop about other peoples and cultures, or that we begin to travel around our country and the world to learn about other places. (Although in my heart, I believe that’s not such a bad idea.)
What I am proposing is that we widen this spirit in feeling. I propose we stretch this “time of year” to encompass not just 4 or 5 weeks, but to have it spread to include nearly 52 weeks of every year. It’s not an easy job, though.
Because when the Christmas lights go out and after the New Year celebrations die down, that’s when the hard work really begins. That’s when all of us, each in his own way, has to keep some spirit alive. That’s when our strong emotions of universal hope and a better life for all us face perhaps the greatest challenge. That’s when it could be their time—even if it’s not our time of year.
In other words, that’s when it may count the most—during the entire year. (I may want to write in the future about what tools we can use to keep this spirit alive.) In the words of Charles Dickens: “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year”.
May this season—and all the seasons of the New year which follow —bring joy and hope to us all.
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