Seasons of Celebration
In the southern hemisphere, the end of the year brings us
to summer and Christmas; celebration seems to shimmer
everywhere, like sunshine on water.
• On 6 & 7 November, the Hindu community celebrated
Diwali, the Festival of Lights which symbolises the triumph
of light over dark and good over evil.
• The Bahai Community celebrated the birth of Bab and
Baha’u’llah on 9 & 10 November, symbolising the arrival of
the age of Peace and Justice on Earth.
• Islam celebrates the Birth of the Prophet Mohammed,
peace be upon him, on 21 November this year.
• On 3 December, the Jewish community commence their
8-day celebration of Chanukah, also sometimes called the
Festival of Lights or the Festival of Dedication. This holiday
commemorates the rededication of the Second Temple in
Jerusalem and is characterised by the progressive lighting
of the menorah on each evening of the Festival.
• And then, on 25 December, Christians celebrate Christmas,
the birth of Jesus, known as the Light of the World.
Each of these events brings a sense of upliftment and joy to
the celebrating community. In these days of political turmoil,
climatic tragedy and social upheaval, we can really do with
all the joy we can get. Celebration and joy are potentially
our greatest weapons against the disillusionment, despair and
violence facing in the world right now.
When I focus on celebration, opening my heart to the joy of
sharing an uplifting moment with people I care about, I find
that the energy somehow shifts and I feel better able to deal
constructively with whatever challenges I may have in my life
at that time.
In this context, religious festivals could have an important
role to play in encouraging humanity to keep going, keep
trying, keep caring; because the light that is ignited during
shared celebration is radiant. It feeds and nurtures everyone,
strengthening the entire community for the next part of the
In each tradition, the messages of Love, Forgiveness, Kindness
and Charity shine brightly through the stories that serve as
their vehicle. Traditionally, at Christmas, we speak about
Peace on Earth and Goodwill amongst humans. Would any
one of us, given a choice and regardless of our spiritual or
religious affiliation, refuse the opportunity for Peace on Earth,
or in our street, or in our home? Christmas is a time to practice
peace and goodwill, which effectively means to create real
community in our homes, neighbourhoods, city and country.
Once, I was taken to task by a Christian friend for celebrating
Christmas when I am not Christian. But when Love is the
message of the celebration, how do you shut the door on its
light that wants to be shared? Love is not limited to any one
Religion. Love spills out, runs over, and embraces generously
the part of itself that is expressed differently. Love recognises
itself in all of life; it seeks to unite, to celebrate, to share and
to heal. Love gifts itself freely, creatively wrapped in a smile, a
glance, a hug. Love is the message I see in the lighting of the
menorah, the triumphant lights of Diwali, the births of Bab and
Baha’u’llah, Mohammed and Jesus.
May Love be the gift we all give each other this Blessed
Season, no matter what Faith we follow.
And may there be peace in your heart,
your home and your street.
Berry Behr, Chairperson,
Cape Town Interfaith Initiative