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  • Emerging Ally

Happy Holidays in the Neighborhood

I grew up in a diverse neighborhood filled with different religious institutions. Within walking distance were an Episcopalian Church, a Synagogue, a Catholic girls school and a Kingdom Hall for Jehovah’s Witnesses. A little farther walk was a Unitarian Church. And on our drive to the Quaker Meeting House my family attended was a Hari Krishna Temple.

One quick lesson for the uninitiated - houses of worship make great neighbors. Whether or not you attend services. They kept their properties well groomed. They shoveled their walks in the winter. Kept things painted and clean. They ensured safe places to walk. Manicured whatever landscaping they had. Really increased property values. They rebuilt neglected buildings. The Hari Krishna brought a rundown building in the neighborhood. They turned a broken down eyesore into a beautiful building. The Jehovah’s Witnesses did the same. It was nice.

I quickly learned we all shared a lot in common. In particular, coffee and donuts. Every Sunday morning you would see a line at the local Wawa (this was before Starbucks - yes I am that old!) to get their morning beverage. Especially in the winter all bundled up. Snow piling up outside and everyone would stand in line - an occasional Hari Krishna’s gold robe peaking out from under a parka or a Yamaka revealing itself as someone pulled down their hood to shake off the cold. We are all human after all.

One things we did not share were holidays. You learned to say Happy Holidays. You could never know who was celebrating or not celebrating whatever holiday you happened to be near in these last few months of the year. Advent (3 Sundays worth no less!), The feast of St Nicholas, Our Lady of Gaudalupe, Christmas Eve, Christmas, Epiphany or 3 Kings Day - and those were only the Christian ones! And not every Christian denomination celebrates all of those. Quakers for example originally celebrated none of them as every day was supposed to be equal in the eyes of God. (Modern Quakers have generally moved to celebrate Christmas - mostly I think as their children made their desire to have presents widely known :) LOL!! ).

Now add in Hannukah from the Jewish calendar, Ashura from Islam, the African American celebration of Kwanza and it starts to get a little complicated.

Expand the calendar even a tiny bit and you now have Diwali from India - which my best friend in high school introduced me to.

Add in the non-religious holidays and it gets even more complicated. Halloween - which is not celebrated by all religious groups, such as Seventh day Adventists. Thanksgiving. New Years Eve and New Years Day. Lunar New Year - a huge event in Asian Cultures. And Boxing Day 12/26 which we celebrated as part of my mother’s English Heritage.

So you learned to say Happy Holidays. You did that because you wanted someone to have a great holiday. No matter WHAT holiday they celebrated… or didn’t celebrate. You wanted THEM to be happy. It wasn’t about your holiday. It was about THEIRS. If you knew what they celebrated all the better. I often try and learn and wish friends Happy Hanukah, Merry Christmas, or whatever their appropriate greeting is.

And you get a smile. And a thank you. :)

I love those smiles. It is always a wonderful time of year. Everyone anticipating their celebrations. Kids would compare what they would get on various celebrations. New cool stuff. Hanukah or Christmas or Kwanza it didn’t matter. I remember those smiles. My Dad would say he liked to “collect smiles”. It is a wonderful time of year.

So I hope you have a HAPPY HOLIDAY! I hope you have a moment to smile. And a moment to collect some smiles on your own.

Happy Holidays, Dave Terné

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