The joys of Christmas are many and varied in our diverse community and give us all an opportunity to trade traditions, introduce new friends to time-honored rituals or learn new ones ourselves.
Roast turkey or roast pig this year? Maybe we’ll have a ham or a goose instead. We are grateful for having so many delicious choices.
Happy, too, that Christmas in South Florida provides such unique images — lights strung out on palm trees, lining boats and waterfront docks, for instance — so in contrast to the snowy scenes on holiday cards. A drive around town on a December night always elicits a smile at the quirky charms of this place we choose to call home. No chestnuts roasting on an open fire when it’s 84 degrees outside. Let’s have some stone crabs, instead.
And while there is nothing spontaneous about this holiday, often planned down to the last stocking stuffer, its arrival does inspire the impulsive giver in most of us, something every savvy charity knows. You can’t swipe a credit card this month without being asked to donate electronically to some needy cause.
The Miami Herald has long operated its own good cause, Wish Book, featuring stories of individuals and families down on their luck or beset by illness whose lives would be improved with something — a motorized wheel chair, a gas card, a decent bed. For 41 years generous South Floridians have responded to the stories that run daily from Thanksgiving through mid-January chronicling the struggling lives of people around us.
There appears to be no let-up in your generosity this year, as donations just keep coming. Thank you!
The giving is in spirit with the man whose birth we celebrate today. Jesus practiced what he preached, helping the most humble without stint and, as Christians are taught, ultimately giving his life for those who believe in him. In virtually every faith the spirit of giving and practicing humility remain universal.
For some, this year, it will take every bit of that faith to struggle with the enormous sorrow wrought by the school shooting in Newtown, Conn.
On this day so deeply linked with peace and good will, it seems only right to take moment from the festivities and ponder hard on how we, as individuals, can join together to prevent such unwarranted tragedies in the future. There are so many families grieving this year, in Colorado, Oregon, Connecticut, seeking solace for the heinous, unfathomable acts that ripped their loved ones out of their lives.
We must come together as a nation to rid ourselves of this brutal plague. We must not be impotent in the face of such evil. We must emulate the man we are celebrating, all the peacemakers of all faiths, and resist the temptation to shrug, to do nothing, to turn away from the blunt truth of violence triumphing over innocence.
Today, we must hug our loved ones extra tight, savoring what we have, what we’ve given, preparing to launch a new year and promising a firmer commitment to make our families’ lives better, and safer, in 2013. Really, to make our communities safer.
For that’s one thing that this holiday season of Hanukkah, Christmas and Kwanzaa celebrations brings out in our diverse midst: a once-a-year sense of togetherness. We share the traditions, sample new rites, taste new foods, nod greetings more, smile more, cut some slack for others, donate to good causes and generally experience a warmth of spirit that has nothing to do with our balmy weather.
If there’s one thing living in such a polyglot place teaches us, it is the need to respect others if we want to succeed. So we learn to greet each other with festive words, and this time of year we really mean them. Merry Christmas. Happy Hanukkah. Feliz Navidad. Joyeux Noel. Lovely words, all. We must remember to live up to their good will the other 364 days of the year — the true meaning of Christmas.