A Multifaith Gift-Giving Guide
What to get friends and colleagues for Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, Rohatsu, and Yule.
BY: Arthur Magida
Gifts are not exchanged on this holiday. Instead, it is observed by Zen practitioners, who sit on December 8 in meditation, often all night long, in remembrance of Buddha seeing the morning star after meditating for several days preceding his enlightenment. In monasteries, this December 8 sitting sometimes follows an entire week of intensive meditation practice.
Ramadan, Eid ul Fitr, and Eid ul Adha: This year's holiday season finds itself sandwiched by two Islamic holidays: Eid ul Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and Eid ul Adha, which culminates the end of Hajj. Ramadan, a month-long time of dawn-to-dusk fasting, prayer, self-improvement and reflection, began this year in late September. Ramadan culminates in the celebration of Eid ul Fitr, when families and friends gather for feasts and good company.
Eid ul Adha will most likely come on December 31, 2006, depending on the lunar calendar. Eid ul Adha comes at the end of the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca and Medina, which millions of Muslims embark on each year. The holiday is celebrated with Muslims individually sacrificing a goat or lamb--or jointly sacrificing a cow or camel--followed by a gathering of family and friends.
Traditional greetings: During Ramadan Muslims greet each other by saying "Ramadan Mubarak," which means "May God grant you a blessed month," or Ramadan Kareem," which means "Wishing you a generous Ramadan." On Eid ul Fitr and Eid ul Adha Muslims simply say "Eid Mubarak" or "Eid Mabrook," which means "May God make it a blessed feast."
Exchanging gifts is not a hard-and-fast custom for both Eids. Usually adults give toys or money to children, and some adults exchange gifts if they so choose. During Ramadan Muslims often share dates, the primary fast-breaking food, following the example of the Prophet Muhammad. It would not be inappropriate to give dates or other food items to break a fast (make sure that food items do not include pork or non-halal meat).
On both Eids, Muslims tend to dress up, cook special meals, and spend the day meeting friends and family and reflecting on the special time they have just spent.
Kwanzaa: This celebration of traditional African values of family, community, and culture is celebrated from December 26 through January 1. "Kwanzaa," by the way, means "first fruits of the harvest" in the African language of Swahili.
Traditional greeting: "Happy Kwanzaa."
Gifts for children, called zawadi, are very much encouraged. Usually given from parents to their children, these are not overly expensive. Traditional presents are books (emphasizing the value of learning) and "heritage symbols" (such as art objects, bookends, pictures, etc.) that evoke African history and tradition. Gifts are usually given on the last day of Kwanzaa, January 1.
Yule: A celebration of the winter solstice and the renewal of light, Yule occurs on December 21.
Traditional greeting: May vary, but "Happy Yule" is always appropriate.
Gifts are often exchanged after rites and rituals performed on the evening of December 21. Homemade gifts and crafts are appropriate, as are earthenware, incense, candles, or harvest-related gifts.