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Christmas is not just for Christians anymore
by Joshua H. Silavent
Dec 25, 2011 | 1033 views | 0 0 comments | 3 3 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Christmas has become many things to many people the world over. And though the tribute remains the same, celebrations can differ quite substantially from country to country.
Christmas has become many things to many people the world over. And though the tribute remains the same, celebrations can differ quite substantially from country to country.
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SPARKS — Christmas has become many things to many people the world over. And though the tribute remains the same, celebrations can differ quite substantially from country to country.

In Egypt, for example, Coptic Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus on Jan. 7, as do orthodox Christians in Russia and Eastern Europe.

Germans celebrate St. Nicholas Day on Dec. 6 as a kind of formal kickoff to the holiday season.

Similarly, Mexicans begin their Christmas celebrations on Dec. 12 with the birthday of La Guadalupana (Virgin of Guadalupe). The yuletide season ends on Jan. 6 with the Epiphany.

Christmas is even celebrated in the far-flung corners of the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

In 2008, Iraq officially declared Christmas a holiday for the first time.

In Vietnam, Christmas is celebrated in the Western tradition despite the fact that the country is predominantly Buddhist.

And in America, Christmas has become both a religious and secular holiday, observed by Christians and atheists alike.

“I keep hearing about the ‘War on Christmas’ nonsense again this year,” said Edwin Lyngar, 38, a Reno resident, self-described atheist and founder of Citizens for a Secular Nevada. “If anything, I think that recognizing that secular Americans have an interest in this season is more important than ever.”

Lyngar is married with five children and, like most nonbelievers, he was raised in a religious family.

But despite having abandoned the faith, Lyngar and his family still love the Christmas season, celebrating and cherishing the holiday for many of the same reasons that Christians do.

“We want to teach our children about love, compassion and charity,” he told this reporter last year.

For some, Christmas has become as much a cultural holiday in America as it is a religious commemoration of Jesus’ birth.

And mixed-faith families add to this legacy.

Rabbi Elizabeth Beyer of Temple Beth Or in Reno said a number of Jewish-Christian, mixed-faith families attend her synagogue.

“Some people find it extra special because they have more to celebrate,” she said with a chuckle.

Beyer thinks the fact that some families celebrate both Hanukah and Christmas reflects the great tradition of both faiths.

“They both draw on sacred texts,” she said.

Pastor Tom Butler of Sparks United Methodist Church believes that only through communication can the differences between religious beliefs, and lack thereof, be reconciled for the greater good.

“I think we’re seeing the beginning of something that will continue to grow over the next thousand years: People of faith communicating with each other in an effort to understand each other and live together on the earth,” he said. “Peace on earth and goodwill toward all really reflects the need for understanding and our sense of peace will come when we understand each other and respect each other, even when we recognize there are differences between all of us, part of which is religious differences. Communication is not just about what we say but how well we listen. Listening is unfortunately one of those gifts that is too seldom given.”
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