In the rush of the holidays, which are this year sandwiched between two major photography fairs for us (AIPAD Photography Miami and Photo LA), I myself have hardly felt the spirit that such a time should bring out in each of us. But I am working on it.
In Miami, every hotel and restaurant was decked out in Christmas and Chanukah tinsel and decorations, as if to make up for the unseasonable weather there (sunny and in the 80s F). But this is hardly what the season should really be about. It should be about reaching out to others with charity, warmth and love.
Of course, up here in the Northeast where I live just north of Philadelphia, it is not exactly looking like Christmas either (although we may have an ice storm shortly as I write these words). But what the landscape looks like and just how the decorations are hung shouldn't be all that necessary to the holiday spirit.
What are necessary are an open heart and a spirit of kindness and brotherhood. That's what this season is really all about no matter your religious (or non-religious) orientation.
Keep this in mind when you are buying all those "things". Reserve some of your funds and this next year maybe even some of your time for those of our brothers and sisters who are less fortunate than us. I am not suggesting that you become a "Scrooge" to your family, but rather engage them in opening their hearts to others. It may be the most important gift you can give them.
Be creative. Brainstorm ideas on how to do this with your family and friends. There are so many people in need all over the world, perhaps unnecessarily. And don't feel bad if you think it is too late for this holiday season. Here's a secret: people need your help all year round--perhaps even more AFTER the season of "giving" has passed.
And, as I suggested two years ago (http://www.iphotocentral.com/news/issue_view.php/106/99 ), it wouldn't hurt to start demanding that all our politicians, all over the world, stand up for peace and for justice. I am fully aware though that in many places this would be very dangerous indeed. And we need to press such nations to provide basic liberties within their own cultural systems--freedom of speech and the right of citizens everywhere to demonstrate without fear of reprisals for their own views.
If we are to compete with certain radical elements, we must provide a better example than they do, including providing basic humane aid to maintain a reasonable standard of living for all the world's people. That will be the point that our holiday season--whatever it is called--will truly be one of joy and happiness.
So, Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Joyeux Noel, Happy Kwanza, Happy Solstice, Eid al-Adha, Muharram, Happy New Year and Bonne Annee. If I missed one or two greetings, I apologize and offer you my best wishes of the season.