Bahai News -- Non-Christian faiths enjoy the holidays in their own way Tuesday 24 December, 2002

Non-Christian faiths enjoy the holidays in their own way

By Brent Flynn , Staff writer

Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus for Christians all over the world. TV shows and commercials, movies, merchandise and décor on houses and street lights remind everyone that the Christmas spirit is alive and well.

But for people of non-Christian faiths, the prevalence of Christmas can take on a different meaning.

"A number of families do report feeling overwhelmed, especially relating to public-school-aged children," said Helena Shapp-Dossey, director of education for Congregation Kol Ami in Flower Mound, the only Jewish synagogue in Denton County. "Some of our parents take a day off from work and go to the schools to explain a little bit about our religion. They do a little show and tell about Hanukkah. A lot of schools do a unit on religious celebrations around the world."

Shapp-Dossey said the way many parents help their children understand Christmas is by describing it as a celebration like any other birthday and one that they can help their friends celebrate. She also said that some people from the congregation use the time off to volunteer at local hospitals to let Christian staff members spend time with their families.

Shapp-Dossey said there is no direct "equivalent" to Christmas for Jewish people, but there are several holy days celebrated throughout the year.

"In terms of celebrating and gift sharing probably the closest thing is Purim in the spring time," she said. "Although, if you're talking about large numbers of people coming to services then Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur in the fall."

The Baha'i faith is an independent religion that has been in existence since the mid-1800s. The Baha'i center in Lewisville had a special Christmas program on Sunday to celebrate the life and ministry of Jesus Christ. Baha'i center spokesman Fariborz Davoodi said the program consisted of songs and readings from the bible and Baha'i texts.

"There are a whole bunch of writings in the Baha'i scriptures and a lot of references to (Jesus) and his standing," Davoodi said.

According to a press release from the center, Baha'is believe that all religions are from one singular source. The ultimate goal of Baha'i teaching is the unity of humankind and a greater peace on Earth, a goal only attainable when religions cooperate with each other.

Davoodi said Baha'is celebrate the birth of the Ba'b, or manifestation of God in the Baha'i faith, on Nov. 20. and the new year on March 21. His children celebrate the Ayyam-i-Ha with service projects and receive gifts for five days in February.

Davoodi said the Christmas holidays gives him much needed time off to relax.

"Personally, I'll be taking advantage of the opportunity to spend time with family," he said. "We also celebrate Christmas as a social event and buy (the children) presents from 'Santa'. All their friends are getting presents, and we don't want them to be left out. My wife was a Catholic before becoming a Baha'i. To her, it is a special event still."

Contact staff writer Brent Flynn at 972-538-2115 or at flynnb@dfwcn.com.

©Copyright 2002, Lewisville Leader (TX, USA)

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