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Library News

By: Mark Roseman, Board Member
For: Red Rock News
Date: December 18, 2009

The Winter Holidays are here; Get thee to the Library

We are in the Winter Holiday Season.   It’s everywhere:  the color and majesty of celebrations, the intangible, yet palpable  buzz of people connecting , the anticipation of turning the noise of life to a hush, to be filled with Holiday music and food, the extension of goodwill through gifting, and the taking of time to bathe in the Holiday feeling.

Holidays are a fascinating manifestation of human beings doing what we innately do . . . we bond.  No matter the reasons that we personally celebrate during the Holidays, the feeling of belonging is heightened by the experience.   A large part of the world takes a moment to stop, feel, appreciate, yearn, and reflect.  In her book “The World Holiday Book” (Dewey 394.26), Anneli Rufus writes “. . . holidays set us apart from other species, turning every celebrant into a vessel of ritual, bonding us with every other celebrant throughout the world and throughout time.” 

The anthropological phenomenon of Holidays, itself, is enmeshed in the predisposition of humans ‘needs to collectively share their dreams, wishes, fantasies, and even myths.  We are a herding species, and like the cows in a summer pasture, there is safety and comfort in sharing the same shade tree.  Author Anneli Rufus also observes that “Holidays . . . bring out the best in us: their gongs and hymns and fires bring us back to our sacred selves, our social selves.”

“The celebration of holidays is part of our history and our identity,” writes Sue Ellen Thompson, in “Holiday Symbols” (Dewey 394.26).  “Through the ritual of commemoration, we honor the past, mark the present, and anticipate the future.”   This book is a detailed account of the legend and lore behind the symbols associated with Holidays and Holy Days, and provides a historical survey of over 750 symbols associated with each one, including Christmas, Chanukah, and Kwanzaa.

Another good read about the anthropology of our species’ attraction to Holidays is “Dancing in the Streets, A History of Collective Joy,” written by Barbara Ehrenreich (Dewey 394.26).  The book uncovers the deep origins of communal revelry in human biology and culture.  The author opines that humans are social animals, and rituals are expressions of socialization and a way of renewing the bonds that hold communities and societies together.

We humans bond and cement our Holidays with inspirational music, traditional foods, and gift exchanging.  The SPL collection of books, CDs, DVDs, and periodicals underscores the diversity of Holiday traditions of the Season.  

If you celebrate Kwanzaa, or want to know more about the origin of the Kwanzaa celebration, in the wake of the Watts riots of 1965, Maitefa Angaza’s book entitled “Kwanzaa, From Holiday to Every Day” (Dewey 394.2612) provides an excellent guide to the principles and traditions of the Holiday.  The seven principles of Kwanzaa: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity, and faith, are woven throughout.    The book contains chapters about such things as: how to prepare for the Holiday celebration, meaningful gift-giving, recipes for the feast that follows, and songs that carry the message of Kwanzaa.  There is also a guide to the lighting of the seven red and green Kwanzaa candles, each representing one of the principles of Kwanzaa.

The festival of Chanukah, celebrated by  Jewish people during  this Holiday Season , commemorates  the rededication of the Second Temple in 165 BCE,  when, against all odds, a small band of Jews overcame the mighty and oppressive Syrians who wanted to obliterate the Jewish religious beliefs and convert them to the ways of Hellenism.   Chanukah (also spelled “Hanukkah”) is succinctly described in “American Judaism, A History” (Dewey 296.0973) by Jonathan D. Sarna as “. . . the minor winter holiday . . . with its stress on freedom, its easy- to-observe candle-lighting ritual, its child-pleasing gifts and games, and its convenient proximity to Christmas . . .”  The eight-day celebration of Chanukah is comprehensively discussed in Arlene Rossen Cardozo’s book “Jewish Family Celebrations” (Dewey 296.4) wherein she describes the origin and evolution of the festival, candle-lighting procedures, the food of the Holiday, gift-giving, and songs associated with the celebration.

Christmas, according to “The Catholic Encyclopedia, Revised and Updated” (Dewey 282.0321) is the day on which the Nativity of Jesus Christ is celebrated.  The enormous impact of the holiday is interjected into Western society, and beyond, with its call for good will towards all.  The marvelous trappings and traditions of the Holiday are well-represented by SPL’s collection of books, music, and media.  The book “300 Ways to Make the Best Christmas Ever!” (Dewey 745.594), edited by Mimi Tribble, takes the reader through myriad popular and sentimental traditions associated with a traditional American Christmas, Victorian Christmas, Country Christmas and Southwestern Christmas- Feliz Navidad.  The photographs, craft suggestions, poems, recipes, and carols are attractively and tastefully presented. 

The SPL Christmas collection of CD music is large.  Enjoy Nat King Cole’s CD “The Christmas Song,” for familiar classics, or the modernized interpretations of Holiday classics by Christina Aguilera, on her CD “My Kind of Christmas.”  The bold and penetrating “Messiah” of George Frideric Handel (1685-1759) is also available, for inspirational listening.   Wrap up your Christmas shopping days with a Christmas movie DVD, by checking out a movie such as the 1946 version of “It’s A Wonderful Life.” 

The Winter Holiday time is the season to feel the emotional side of being human.  However, the personal bonds cemented by our celebrations and the extension of caring, giving, and love, are, I am certain, not intended to be seasonal.   Happy Holidays from the Sedona Public Library!

Mark Roseman
Mark Roseman, author of this week's article,
is a retired attorney and a Member of the Board of Trustees of the Sedona Public Library.

Library News appears each Friday in the Red Rock News
and is also presented on: Gateway to Sedona and Sedona Biz.