Saturday, December 03, 2005
  The HollyDazzle Day
Ok, this is the stupidest thing I've heard...

Newport News, Va., is getting ready for their annual Christmas celebration, except they aren't calling it that. They're calling it Hollydazzle. And instead of lighting the Christmas Tree, they'll be lighting the “Tree of Illumination.”

Who do they think they are fooling? Does anyone really imagine that American Jews drape their menorahs with holly garlands during Hanukkah? Or that Muslims put up trees (of illumination or any other sort) to celebrate Eid? Or maybe that Hindus hang ornaments off the many arms of Kali each December? Of course not!

And when all the folks gather around the tree down in Newport News, waiting for the firemen to light it up, will any of them really think how beautiful the Multifaith Tree of Illumination is going to be? Heck, no! Christmas trees are Christmas trees; celebrations where you light trees are celebrations of Christmas. Changing the name doesn't change the nature of what you are doing, it just makes a mockery of multiculturalism and the separation of church and state.

The government should either get out of the business of holiday celebrations or they should practice true multiculturalism. Since the vast majority of Americans do not want the government to stop celebrating events important to their lives -- even my atheist friends and family celebrate holidays like Christmas and Easter -- the solution, clearly, is not to eliminate holidays, but to have public celebrations that actually include other faiths.

Pretending that Christian traditions can be universal under a different name won’t pass the muster. It offends Christians, who rightfully do not want their holidays watered down into some meaningless, politically correct verbiage. And it offends non-Christians because such renaming is clearly nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt by some to maintain the status quo – that is to have the government continue celebrating Christmas and acting as though Christianity were the state religion, just disguising it under obfuscating titles.

True multiculturalism is welcoming many different celebrations, customs, and holidays. It’s lighting a Christmas Tree one week, and lighting a Menorah the next. It’s hanging Ramadan lanterns in October and Christmas decorations in December.

Some public institutions are already doing this. My children's elementary school, for instance, had winter holiday parties that were truly celebrations of winter traditions. The walls of the school were decorated with posters depicting Divali, Ramadan and Eid ul Fitr (which at the time fell near Christmas), Chinese New Year, Kwanza, Hanukkah, and various incarnations of Christmas. The parties often included songs, games, or crafts from different cultures. Children were invited to talk about their own celebrations.

Our federal government has demonstrated another model – maintaining Christian traditions, while adding celebrations of other faiths to the calendar. The President still lights the National Christmas Tree, and the White House still boasts the largest wreath in Washington DC. But the President also hosts an annual Ramadan Iftar – the dinner to break fast. During Hanukkah, the White House displays a Menorah and hosts lighting ceremonies. He sends greetings to the Chinese community on Chinese New Year, and the African American community on Kwanza.

That is the way government celebrations should be handled – with acknowledgement of the diversity that makes this country vibrant, and with respect for the principle that the government should not prefer one religion over another. Whether it is in one unified celebration that incorporates aspects of many faiths, or in a multiplication of celebrations doesn’t really matter so long as it is a substantive move towards inclusiveness. Lip-service – coming up with feel-good names that fool nobody, and don’t please anybody – simply isn’t good enough.
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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Progressive Muslim, feminist, mom, writer, mystic, lover of the universe and Doug Schmidt, cellist, theologian and imam.

What I'm reading now

Cane River
An interesting exploration of the gradual whiting of a family through slavery to modern days.

To see an archive of all the books I've read (well the ones I've read and review since I started the blog) with comments, please click here

Causes Worth Supporting

This is just a short list -- a few of my favorites.

English Language Islamic Fiction. We need more of it. Lots more.
Pay a Teacher's Salary in Afghanistan. The Hunger site actually has a lot of worthwhile programs. You can find them all here .
Muslims for Progressive Values. My organization. We can always use donations, of time or money!
Human Rights Campaign for the glbt community
National Religious Campaign Against Torture
The ACLU I'm a card carrying member. Hope you'll become one too. The organization that has done the most, as far as I can tell, to pull the countries progressive side together.
Network of Spiritual Progressives. Working to reclaim religion and morality for the religious left.

Blogs Worth Reading

Wanda Campbell also known as Nochipa A very gifted poet and a gentle, compassionate soul. Nochipa and I are on the same page on sooooo many things
Writeous Sister Aminah Hernandez, she's got some excellent latino pieces and always has good writing info on her blog.
Sister Scorpion aka Leila Montour - Leila is a fount of energy, quirky humor, and bad attitude. She's also a talented poet.
Muhajabah Very interesting commentary here. I don't always agree with her, but her pieces are always thought-provoking.
Georgie Dowdell Georgie is a great writer and a good friend.
Louise Marley Another great writer. I think Louise is one of the best sf writers exploring faith themes.
Ink in My Coffee Devon Ellington (who has numerous aliases) who is also the editor of Circadian Poems. A truly inspiring woman with a seemingly endless supply of energy.
Ethnically Incorrect With a name like that, isn't a given I'm going to enjoy this writer?
Freedom from the Mundane Colin Galbraith, another excellent writer, from Scotland.
The Scruffy Dog Review This is a new e-zine with an ecclectic mix of fiction, poetry, and non-fic, some really enjoyable pieces here.
Ramblings of a Suburban Soccer Mom Lara, another gentle soul, very thoughtful.
Circadian Poems A journal of poetry, new stuff up all the time.
Ye Olde Inkwell Michelle writes romance and is one of my writing buddies.
Muhammad Michael Knight The original punk Muslim writer. Like him or love him, Mike is always coming up with the unexpected.

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