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Holidays help us transcend differences

By Sava Hassan | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2017-12-19 15:36
A choir performs Christmas songs in the Kempinski Hotel in Guiyang to mark the beginning of the festive season. [Photo provided to chinadaily.com.cn]

Despite being a Muslim, I look forward to this time of year to share the jovial activities of Christmas and New Year’s with my fellow human beings, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Without putting too much emphasis on the holidays’ religious significance, appreciate their tendency to bring people together.

In my hometown of Montreal, I enjoyed seeing people of all nationalities acquiring a generosity of spirit despite lacking time to finish their shopping lists before Dec 24.

They usually greeted each other with a genuine smile and a common phrase, "Merry Christmas and a happy new year."

Most companies, firms and organizations held Christmas parties, during which all staff members put their competitive natures and office politics aside to enjoy the friendly atmosphere of the parties while toasting the upcoming holidays. Some bosses were generous enough to buy gifts.

The city streets were decorated with Christmas trees, adorned with Christmas memorabilia and bright colorful lights. The city became alive day and night, with the festive spirit working its magic upon it.

At that time of year, I knew some Canadians fell victim to despondency, due to having no one to share the joys of the holidays with. Homeless people suffered the freezing cold of the Canadian winter without enough food to satisfy their hunger.

The spirit of the holidays prompted generous people to offer much-needed help to the less fortunate. Some volunteered at homeless shelters, while others donated food and clothing to charities.

I frequently think about the possibility of transcending our differences to rejoice in the festive activities at this precious time of the year. Why can't we be that generous, kind and courteous toward one another all year round?

During my stay in China, I was delighted to discover my students were kind enough to take a few moments and email me thoughtful ecards, or bringing symbolic gifts to the classroom, knowing full well I am a Muslim. They knew I celebrate all special events regardless of their religious significance.

I also learned some schools in China hold Christmas parties for their students, while dining establishments host Christmas and New Year’s parties to accommodate foreigners in China.

Foreigners in China will certainly fall victim to a terrible feeling, having to spend that special time of year without their families and friends. If you have a foreign friend, a coworker or a neighbor, please take a moment of your time to wish them a happy holiday.

You could be noble enough to invite them to a simple meal at your home. You would be doing them a tremendous favor by helping them avoid the feeling of being alone. You could even take them on a night out to chase the blues away.

I must seize this opportunity to wish all foreigners in China “Happy holidays”, and a “Merry Christmas” to those who celebrate it.

And to my dear hosts, all Chinese families, I wish a very Happy New Year and an ardent wish the new year will bring them excellent health, abundant prosperity and ultimate happiness.

Sava Hassan is a Canadian Egyptian educator.

The opinions expressed here are those of the writer and don't represent views of China Daily website.

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