The season is a matter of similarities

Published 11:01 pm Saturday, December 20, 2008

It’s coming on Christmas and most of us have finished shopping and putting up trees.

I’m sitting here in the late afternoon in 70-plus-degree weather looking out at the Alabama River. Naked trees give me the only hint of winter right now.

But this week we’ll celebrate the winter solstice. Christians will celebrate the birth of Jesus. Jews will celebrate Hanukkah or the festival of lights. In North America, Muslims celebrated Eid al-Adha, or the Festival of Sacrifice, in early December this year.

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All of us have some kind of celebration. Basically, the practices are similar. We light candles, decorate trees, sing songs, pray or meditate. We give or share our bounty with others.

For example, Christians exchange gifts to remember the greatest gift given them by God, Jesus Christ, who later died on a cross to save believers from their sins. It is a time of goodwill and kindness. It is a time to think of the virgin who gave birth to Jesus and of the beginning of his mission as he came to the world.

Muslims aren’t so different. During Eid-al-Adha, the Muslim community remembers the time when Abraham was told to bring his wife’s servant and their child Ismael to the desert after Abraham’s wife became jealous. As Hagar, the servant, was about to collapse from dehydration, her son Ismael struck his foot on the ground and caused a spring of water to come from the earth. When Abraham returned to check on them, they were running a profitable well. This is supposed to be the place where Ismael built the Kaaba. During this festival Muslims are urged to give meat to the poor and hungry and to visit with their friends and relatives and bond with family.

Hannukkah honors a miracle for eight days to remember the oil that could not burn but for one day only, endured eight days. Prayers are said, including a version of this one, “We light these lights for the miracles and the wonders, for the redemption and the battles that you made for our forefathers, in those days at this season, through your holy priests. During all eight days of Hanukkah these lights are sacred, and we are not permitted to make ordinary use of them except for to look at them in order to express thanks and praise to Your great Name for your miracles, Your wonders and Your salvations.”

So, sitting here at the beginning of Christmas week, I’m beginning to wonder — If we’re so much alike, then why aren’t we more tolerant?

Leesha Faulkner is executive editor of The Selma Times-Journal. She may be reached at 410-1730 or by e-mail at