Holidays as Times for Peace

December 12, 2023

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The last few months of the Gregorian calendar year are punctuated with globally celebrated religious and cultural holidays, several of which occur in the month of December alone. Although not everyone around the world celebrates in the same way, the holiday season offers a time of global reflection, anticipation, and hope for the coming new year.

These holidays also contribute to community-building, goodwill, and peaceful encounters between different social and religious groups. Christians are urged to engage the spirit of Advent through humility by building peace within one’s soul, within the family, and around the world—all anticipating the peace brought by the birth of Jesus Christ. Hanukkah celebrates the rededication of the Temple and highlights the perseverance and social bonds connecting Jewish communities. On Bodhi Day, Buddhists honor the day Siddhartha Gautama first experienced enlightenment, setting an example for his followers as they seek awakening and true wisdom. Non-religious holidays, such as Kwanzaa, emphasize unity, cooperation, and faith. These celebrations’ values of fellowship help foster a collective sense of respect, empathy, and embracing of the other.

The Berkley Forum asks: In what ways do holidays nurture peace across cultures? Are there historical examples where holiday observance resulted in a break in violence? How do communities learn from each other through holiday celebrations? To what extent do higher education institutions play a role in this? How can we build an inclusive global community while honoring and respecting religious and cultural diversity?

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