This essay, written by yours truly, was posted on the Baha'i National website about halfway down the page. I don't feel bad copying myself so here it is in its entirety after the jump:
As a child, the oncoming Winter Holiday season always filled me with joy. The garland and greenery on street poles, the colored lights that appeared in the windows of houses around the neighborhood, and the threat, and often appearance, of snow dusting the yards and empty branches of the town always meant one thing to me. It meant that my birthday had nearly arrived.
I was born just before midnight at the very beginning of December. When my parents arrived at the hospital, the day was cold and dry and a gray pallor overshadowed the dark browns, sepias, and tans that colored the streets of my home town. However, the following day my father was amazed to find that he had to brush more than a foot of snow off his car in the hospital parking lot. It was almost as if snow had arrived to usher in my birth, though in truth, the snow could also have been for any of the other babies born within that twenty four hour period. Regardless, I have always had a very congenial relationship with snow.
Having been born in December often meant that family friends would try to appear understanding that I would be so lucky -- or so unlucky -- to have to share my birthday month with the celebration of the birth of Christ and the holiday atmosphere. Some with birthdays close to mine would even knowingly commiserate with being shorted presents because of the pressure of the holiday season.
However unbeknownst to many who would comment in the supermarket, I possessed a special talisman that alleviated any stress or disappointment that might creep into my month of December. I grew up a Baha’i. Growing up in a Baha’i family meant that Christmas day never included presents carefully lying under a colorfully decorated tree unless we were visiting one of my grandparents’ houses. Often, it would be a day much like any other winter day though usually my family would take time to read from the New Testament on that day about the birth of Christ. When we were at grandparents’ houses we would often accompany them to church and happily sit through the Christmas service.
One winter I remember visiting a family friend and the joy of lighting the first candle on the menorah. I remember really wanting to light the rest of the candles too but understanding that the lighting would be done on subsequent days. Afterward we played with a dreidel, though we never figured out how exactly to play the game because of the confusion over many years of differing house rules. It was a blast.
I guess I am most thankful for learning the importance of sharing during the holidays. Whether my family was sitting around a Christmas tree or not, I always was contented to celebrate that God’s love for humanity was so great that He sent mankind a redeemer. Whether I sat at a table with latkes or a table with Cheerios, I was inspired by being able to identify the power of God’s generosity that abundantly overshadows our own earthly expectations.
Later on in the year, I was pleased to be able to recognize the fortitude and beauty of subjugating our own human desires in my Muslim friends’ sacrifice during Ramadan which often fell so close to our own Baha’i month of fasting.
I am even happy to share my birthday snow with everyone who is excited or amazed by its arrival. In this way, the garland and greenery, the colored lights, and even the snow in this season become more than just decorations. Their outward appearance is just a symbol for peace and joy and celebration and there is enough room for us all to join in. After all, everyone benefits from peace on earth and goodwill towards men. And everyone benefits from being reminded to have a happy holiday, whenever that holiday may be.