Christmas a national holiday? Yes Federal law (5 U.S.C. 6103) establishes Christmas Day, 25 December, as a Federal National Holiday. Who has not encountered, however, the recent trend to remove the name Christmas and its symbols from this season? This is tragic because culture draws from the well of religion. Religious precepts define and guide a culture, and as those precepts are developed and practiced they form a tradition.
Maybe, because I spent so many years as a priest, chaplain, pastor and psychologist in the New York City metropolitan area I have come to love the unity and diversity that gave witness to ‘Seasons Greetings’. That meant we could respect the individual heritage of different traditions standing along side of one another. I looked forward to the entry of Santa, a symbol of St. Nicholas, who gave away his possession’s to the poor in emulation of the charity of Jesus; the lighting of the Christmas tree and manger displays at Rockefeller Center, celebrating the birth of the “Prince of Peace.” I remember the spiritual happiness I had viewing the lighting of the giant Menorah candles one each for the eight days of Hanukkah at Columbus Circle with equal joy and enthusiasm. In later years the ‘Holy Season’ was extended to honor other traditions of Americans, thus including Kwanzaa, and recently many Americans have been made aware of the spirit of Ramadan which usually occurs close to the winter months.
Christmas is when Christians celebrate, in the words of Isaiah the Prophet: “ to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called 'Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.'” (Is. 9: 6). How wonderful, in this blessed season, to also reflect on the spirit of Hanukkah, the joy of the festival of lights commemorating the rededication of the Jerusalem Temple to God, and what this feast should mean in our lives; how wonderful to reflect on the spirit of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith. How inspirational to reflect on the virtues to be cultivated during Ramadan: patience and self-control, sympathy for the deprived, cleansing of mind and body, appreciation for the Divine, development of deep personal commitment and strength to fight off evil.
In the spirit of this holy time of year we can all proclaim: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased!” (Lk 2: 13-14). Indeed God would be pleased for all mankind to honor and respect one another in the spirit of the “Season of Peace”—a National Holiday.
V. Rev. Fr. George Morelli Ph.D. is a licensed Clinical Psychologist and Marriage and Family Therapist, Coordinator of the Chaplaincy and Pastoral Counseling Ministry of the Antiochian Orthodox Christian Archdiocese, (www.antiochian.org/counseling-ministries) and Religion Coordinator (and Antiochian Archdiocesan Liaison) of the Orthodox Christian Association of Medicine, Psychology and Religion. Fr. George is Assistant Pastor of St. George's Antiochian Orthodox Church, San Diego, California.