of Dr. Steven L. Berg

Happy New Year

One of the great things about being multicultural in one’s perspective is that you get to celebrate so many more holidays.  For example, today is the Sri Lankan New Year and had I not spend the day in bed, I would have been celebrating with friends at the Great Lakes Buddhist Vihara.  Sleeping until 5:00pm is not a very auspicious way to begin the New Year, but I was able to deliver cakes and bananas–my contribution to today’s festivities–to the Vihara during the brief period I was awake this morning.

I try to acknowledge various religious and secular holidays in my classes as a way to introduce students to different cultural traditions.  I do not expect them to remember the details of the lessons.  Instead, I hope to ignite the spark of discovery.  For example, by wishing them a Happy New Year in April, they might be more apt to pay more attention to other New Year’s celebrations when they encounter another New Year’s celebration other than the one they are used to experiencing on the evening of December 31.

Another New Year’s celebration I enjoy celebrating with my students is Rosh Hashanah.  Typically, I take apples and honey to class because those foods are associated with the Jewish New year.  It is an inexpensive way to introduce students to another culture as well as to acknowledge that there are religious traditions other than the ones I celebrate.

I realize that we cannot celebrate everything and that I do have my favorites that I acknowledge year after year:  Sri Lankan New Year, Rosh Hashanah, Diwali, Halloween, Dia de los Muertos, Ramadan, and various Christian holidays celebrated throughout the year.  However, it takes very little time to give students a multicultural experience that is integrated throughout the semester.

Because we had a dinner guest, I was pleased that I was able to sit at the dinner table.  After dinner, I retreated to my bed to do a bit of writing before falling asleep.  While drafting the reflection above, Ric came into the bedroom and mentioned that our dinner guest had gone downstairs to pray.  Later, as he was leaving, I told our guest that I owned a prayer rug he was welcome to use any time he was here.  I also told him that unless it violated some aspect of his faith tradition, he was welcomed to use the meditation room for prayer.  Ric, our dinner guest, and I are of different faith traditions. However, because we are comfortable in our own traditions, there is no need for us to be threatened by the others.


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