Tuesday, December 12, 2006

This time of year

This time of year, nearly all cultures celebrate a holy day.

In America, we celebrate by shouting at each other about whether to call the season "Christmas" or "The Holidays", usually on cable TV and in internet blogs.

If we were Festivus celebrants, this would be known as the traditional "Airing of Grievances".

At Seattle, Washington's Sea-Tac airport, for example, they're having an Airing of Grievances regarding a local Rabbi's crusade to remove Christmas trees traditionally displayed over airport entrances.

The Port of Seattle, which runs Sea-Tac, took down the trees after the Rabbi, Reagan-like, figuratively thundered, "Mr. Port of Seattle! Take. Down. These. Trees!" The Rabbi had also engaged the services of a very persistent local attorney. Down came the trees.

"People, I just want to say, you know, can we all get along?" These are the words of Rodney Glenn King uttered during a May 1, 1992 TV interview at the height of the L.A. riots sparked by Mr. King's near fatal beating at the hands of Los Angeles Police Department's Officer Laurence Powell, Sergeant Stacey Koon, and two others captured on video by bystander George Holliday.

Although uttered at a different time of year under entirely different circumstances, they are words that have resonated in our national psyche since, and their spirit of reconciliation does seem appropriate to the season.

Why do we have holy days in so many cultures at this time of year? Probably has something to do with the occurrence of the Winter solstice at this time, the shortest day of the year. Since the shortest day of the year is followed by increasingly longer and generally warmer days, most cultures associated this date with the birth or rebirth of their favorite diety or religious proposition.

At least, that's my own completely unoriginal theory.

The exact date of the Winter solstice shifts around a little from year to year due to something called the precession of the equinoxes, so religions that don't get the date exactly right deserve a little slack.

This year the Winter solstice is December 22. Merry Festivus!
Breaking news - trees back

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