I have a book 1154 pages in total explaining various religions which explains by name the beliefs of each religion included and how they look at many different aspects of the differences between them. It is the Harper Collins Dictionary of Religion and addresses more beliefs than I knew existed. It was first published in 1995 and was researched by five pages listing the names of folks with doctorates in many of the religions cited therein. Most all - even Paganism have a winter celebration of one type or another. The book is highly researched and involved. I have tried to compare some of the more well-known traditions considered during the winter season.
For Eastern religions and those who are Buddhists, December 8th is their Day of Enlightenment, on which they celebrate the day that this historical Buddha (Shakyamuni or Siddhartha Gautama) experienced Enlightenment.
For Hindus the celebration is from December 21 through the 25th and is a modern five day celebration in honor of Lord Ganesha and is celebrated by Hindus in the United States.
Historically the Saxon winter solstice festival is called Mothers Night and is celebrated on December 25th.
Saturnalia, an ancient Roman winter solstice festival is observed from December 17th through the 23rd in honor of the deity Saturn and includes a sacrifice, public banquet which is followed by private gift-giving, continual partying and a carnival.
Judaism celebrates Hanukkah which can fall anywhere between late November and early January and is a “movable” date based on the Old Testament Hebrew calendar. It is also referred to as the Festival of Lights during which Jewish people light the Menorah candles - each night lighting one more candle until the entire Menorah is lit. It is a time of reflection on one’s acts during the previous year, penance for wrong doing and introspection on how one can do “better” in the year to come. It is observed for eight nights and days. It commemorates the re dedication of the second Holy temple in Jerusalem. There are special foods, small gifts for children which traditionally includes a spinning top called a dreidel. There are many days of special meaning especially since Judaism is such an ancient religion and each day has a special name, meaning and different type of tradition in food and Torah reading.
Muslims actually practice a religion called Islam and worship Allah as God, believing in submission to the will of Allah. They have many denominations just as does Christianity. They are actually the youngest of the major world religions dating from the seventh century. Their celebrations are non-inclusive of the birth of Jesus and are movable to an ancient calendar so that none I was able to find coincided with a winter time frame.
In 1966 Kwanzaa was created as an African – American holiday to be celebrated December 26th through January 1st and as a family festival centers around seven designated symbols. Started in San Diego, CA, it has spread throughout Africa and ends with an honoring of elders.
There are also other religions in many different countries that are non-Christian which are too numerous to mention, all celebrated during this time frame of the year and basically having to do with thankfulness for harvest, warding off cold and darkness and also celebrating fire, which overcomes both darkness and cold. For example, Persians observe Sadeh which is a mid-winter feast to honor fire and defeat the forces of darkness, frost and cold.
Christianity, of course celebrates the birth of Jesus on December 25th and has the days of Advent preceding that date. Traditionally Boxing Day is the 26th when gift giving was carried out.
How do they treat our religion? They acknowledge us as one of the oldest religions in the world, based on Shamanism from the time of Cave Dwellers on up through Andrew Jackson Davis and the actual date of Modern Spiritualism (The beginning of what is now known as NSAC) based on the Fox Sisters’ experiences on March 31 of 1848. I thought it was thrillingly neat that they stated the acceptance of Spirit Communication from time prior to written records throughout the ages down to the present. As we know, spirit has always BEEN, IS and will always BE. Ancient peoples communicated with their spirit ancestors and depended upon spirit for assistance since time immemorial. That this was acknowledged openly was phenomenal to me.
We know the Bible has many references to Spirit Communication which many religions refuse to accept as such.
How does Modern Spiritualism look at Christmas? Since we see Jesus as the Master Teacher whom we are to follow and emulate we do honor Christmas as the time frame of His birth and observe many of the traditional Christian festivities. We basically pay homage to the beliefs Jesus taught – love, forgiveness, kindness, generosity to others and the always honored Golden Rule as stated in the Sixth of our Declaration of Principles.
Christmas always seems to bring out the best in folks and we strive to achieve those higher traits, not only at this time of year but throughout the year in our lives on a day to day basis.
Realizing that we are tied to Ancient Beliefs by these learned individuals and have been recognized for an honesty throughout the ages was invigorating to me personally and made me even more proud to say “I am a Spiritualist and thankful for this knowledge. Please help me live and set an example for others to desire to investigate.”
May the joys of the season permeate your Being. Merry Christmas to all.