December – Dead End of a Year
We are in the last month of 2021. Looking back our vision is blocked by COVID19 and its attendant curses. That’s what dominated our year with prolonged lock downs and shut- ins, the monotony and trepidation of hearing bad news of deaths and infection. Red letter days brightened the months and here I mean the days when we were vaccinated. Over 60s and now extended to others to receive the booster jab too. Praise be!
D-Days in December
Interestingly, every month has a birth flower and birth stone. December’s are: the narcissus and precious gems are turquoise and zircon.It is also the month celebrating the advent of Jesus Christ. The other months also have significant dates internationally observed, many of them UN specified. We have the most number of public holidays: a pleasure to some, but cautiously disapproved by others since holidays do break the work routines. Some holidays are a must like those of religious significance of which we have three sets.
Then come the National Days which are Independence Day, the Sinhalese and Tamil New Year and Labour/Workers’ Day. 1 December is AIDS Day, a more recent day of commemoration which originally served the purpose of awareness creation of the new disease that had sprung up in the 1960s. The bow of red ribbon is its symbol. Internationally, the most significant is 10 December which is International Human Rights Day decreed by the UN. It commemorates the day when the U N General Assembly in 1948 adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
“The UDHR is a milestone document which proclaims the inalienable rights that everyone is entitled to as a human being – regardless of race, colour, religion, sex, language, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.” It is accepted in almost all countries and is the most translated document -to more than 500 languages.
UN Human Rights Day comes at the end of 16 days of action against gender based violence. 10 December is also Nobel Prize Day in recognition of the annual prizes established by Alfred Nobel. On 27 November, 1895, he signed his third and last will at the Swedish – Norwegian Club in Paris. However, it was five years later that the first Nobel Prize was awarded in 1901. It may have originated with the Peace Prize but now there are many awarded for different fields of research and of course the Literature Prize.
Was the trust fund financed through Nobel’s earnings as the inventor of dynamite? Ironically, his will states the bulk of his assets be given to an endowment to invest in ‘safe securities!’ Of course Christmas and Boxing Day are celebrated all over the world and thus in Sri Lanka too where even other religion-adhering persons catch the Merry Xmas mood and join in the fun.
Sadly, curtailed this year, we suppose as it was in 2020. There exist the cast iron rites and rituals including the Xmas tree, greeting cards, Christmas cake and breudher, and of course the jolly old Santa. Of special significance to Sri Lankan Buddhists particularly, is Sanghamitta Day which is celebrated on the Unduvap Full Moon Poya.
The day and event are honoured by all Theravada Buddhist countries. We celebrate it as the day, Princess Sanghamitta, now an ordained nun, travelled from India to Lanka, following her brother Mahinda Maha Thera’s footsteps. He brought Buddha’s Teaching to the island at the request of King Devanampiyatissa to Emperor Asoka of India.
The Venerable Sanghamita Theri carried a sapling from the bo tree under which Prince Siddhartha attained enlightenment, which lives in Anuradhapura. It was also the beginning of the Meheni Sassna – Order of Bhikkhunis – which Order travelled to other Theravada countries in East and SE Asia. Internationally and locally, December is designated the Month of Women and so ends 2021 on December 31. Kumari