Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!
If anything when I think about christmas and the holidays I think about family. Being close to those you love. Making and keeping sacred certain traditions whether that be decorations, cooking, baking delicious christmas cookies, or playing games. Those things make us, define us, and keep us standing strong on something in this sometimes crazy world of grey. So the ultimate test for me this Christmas was celebrating with people from different states/countries, religions, traditions, and ideologies at a Christmas feast. Bringing together people who aren't family, who don't know one another, and who run the gamut in ideologies. About 30 people from America, Senegal, Korea, Kenya, etc came together to share a meal, games, and Christmas traditions. In some places this would never ever happen. We live in a global world but a global world that is often hyper-segregated. The average small town in Nebraska, say, does not have as many opportunities for experiences like one would have in an international city like Dakar. Albeit being in the Peace Corps I have an upper hand here, but still segregation between volunteers and Senegalese happens all the time. None the less, sharing experiences others from very different backgrounds makes you see hope in the world. Hope that despite the differences people are fighting over, even killing over, we can all come together to eat a meal and celebrate.
I was talking with a Peace Corps employee who is Senegalese about the Senegalese tendency to celebrate any and every holiday they can. Probably 98% of Senegalese are Muslim but even in my tiny community of Maleme Niani out in the bush they open up their days, wallets, and stomachs to celebrate the Christian holidays of Easter and Christmas. When was the last time I, in America, celebrated Eid? Or Rashashana? Or Kwanza? Lets be honest, never, not really. Not saying this is something we need to do, but i think it says something about maybe grace, maybe inclusivity. Maybe it says the Senegalese will do anything for a celebration, which is most likely true, but is that a bad thing? Lets throw off these blankets of safety in our small religious/traditional bubbles and wrap ourselves in differences, differences that can be good, should be welcomed, and will be learned from.
Despite your religion, beliefs, traditions, nationality, May your Christmas or simply your holiday season, wherever you are, find you with a meal, with a family or friends that you love, and a place to lay your head at night in Peace. As the Senegalese say at major holidays, "May God allow us to spend this time together next year" "Amen"
The Scates Family celebrating together at Thanksgiving