Terry Donnelly

Mrs. Making Sentences and I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, a Happy Hanukkah, and a Winter Solstice full of hope.

Now that Christmas 2018 is in the rearview mirror, many of us who are most fortunate have a refrigerator full of yummy left-overs and a shiny, new something sitting in the living room waiting to be assembled with much more rigor than the box instructions would indicate.

Eventually, it’ll get powered up with batteries after at least one trip to Home Depot. Clearly, the celebrations are not over.

Boxing Day recently took place in several countries including the United Kingdom, where it originated, Canada, and Australia, where it is a federal holiday.

It originally was a day for servants, who worked all Christmas Day, to celebrate with their families. It is also a day when employers bestow on their workers a gift or year-end bonus. In its purer form it is a day to box up goods to donate to those less fortunate.

I’d like to suggest the United States take on the celebration of Boxing Day with the others. While sharing our good fortune with othere, our iteration could include a tribute to labor unions in our country.

Different from Labor Day when we honor workers, we’d salute the massive contributions labor unions provided for the safety, and wellbeing of the groups of people they represent.

Without unions, individuals, alone and powerless against massive resources, would have to take their cases for higher wages, working hours, and workplace safety to an owner or board of directors.

Bonding together in a united front puts a workforce of hourly workers on a more equal footing with those in charge of their workday plight. As agrarian America gave way to industry, workers were used like chattel and abused like disposables.

During the heyday of labor unions, the middle class grew and prospered and so did the American economy. Not only a living wage, but time away from the shop, health insurance programs, job security, safety precautions, and the prospect of a respectable retirement were all the result of organizing.

Unions have fallen to lows in both membership and influence and are suffering, partially deserved, political criticism. To join the Boxing Day parade, we don’t have to give anybody anything, but we could spend some time understanding the importance of unions in our history and work to support and revive their status in the American economy.

Moreover, the winter months are chock-full of celebrations beyond Christmas and Boxing Day. Hanukkah is over too.

The Jewish, eight-day Festival of Lights was founded as a festival of rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem after it’s destruction. For Jews it is a home-based celebration where a candle in the menorah is lit each night until all eight are burning brightly. Traditional foods are served, treasured passages read, and gifts exchanged. Sound familiar?

Los Posadas was celebrated by Latinos and Spanish folks between December 16 and 24. The Christian rite has been marked by re-enactments of the stories of Jesus’ birth for over 400 years. St. Lucy’s Day or St. Lucy’s Feast is also over for this year. The third century martyr was feted on Dec. 13.

Diwali, the Hindu celebration of lights, was celebrated on Nov. 7.

Of nonsectarian interest, the Winter Solstice, earth’s shortest daylight day, is also history for this year. December 21 marked the day we start clawing our way through winter and begin the quest for spring.

Not to worry. Even though several holidays are packed away until next year, the festivities are far from over. Kwanzaa starts its seven-day run to New Year’s Day today. African Americans begin the weeklong tribute to family and self-betterment.

Each day is specific to one cause: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and the week is finished off with a study of faith. We are all welcome to participate and would surely walk away wiser for the experience.

Also, on the horizon is the Japanese celebration of Omisoka, immediately followed by our own New Year celebration. Omisoka is a tribute to December 31, the year’s last day and we can continue the party into January 1, our gala saluting what lies ahead.

The Chinese New Year will fall on Feb. 5, ushering in the year of the pig.

Many of us enjoy getting involved with the celebrations and rites of a variety of people around the world. Everyone is welcome to participate in Ramadan by fasting throughout the daylight hours to celebrate the ninth month of the Muslim year.

Ramadan will be observed between May 6 and June 3, 2019. It is enlightening to learn the specifics of many different rites.

It is surprising how similar many are.

And, it is shocking to see how snuggly one’s trousers fit after partaking in the many varieties of festivities. Christians celebrate with wishes of “Merry Christmas.” Jews with “Happy Hanukkah.” African Americans are joyous with good wishes of Kwanzaa. So, getting outside your own comfort zone by wishing everyone “Happy Holidays” seems like a responsible way of spreading cheer around the world.

Plus, it’s good for the economy when we are forced to hit the post holiday sales in search of larger pants.

Terry Donnelly is a retired teacher. He taught in public schools in Kentucky, Michigan, and Colorado. He was an adjunct faculty member instructing teachers and teacher trainees at Michigan State University, University of Colorado, and Adams State College in Colorado.