by Joseph DeGweck

Traditional Signs and Seasons:
A Reflection

Perhaps by now the sights and sounds of this holiday season past are beginning to be transformed into cherished and lasting memories. Subliminal chronicles that will allow us to forever live in those ageless moments of peace and joy shared with family and friends. Moments lost but not forgotten. From definitively reflective images stored in photo albums to elusively ambiguous bits of tête-à-tête, this season, like all others that have passed, should do more than just reflect the true temperament of our culture and traditions. A sense of joy and a confidence of peace must prevail within the spirit of the individual and character of our community. December is a month that is dedicated to just such a task. Is it by accident that such significant celebration of religious ceremonies as Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa all take place around the time of the winter solstice? A time that marks a change of season. A new beginning. A transformation from the past to the future.

Christmas is a Christian tradition. It celebrates the birth of Jesus whom many feel represented a new hope for mankind. “Silent Night” is sung in many churches and communities throughout the United States. Millions of homes are decorated with scenes of the child Jesus humbly lying in a manger; a trough that holds feed for the animals in the stable, symbolizing the Christ Child as being the sustenance on which all mankind must depend for eternal salvation. It represents the hope of our future.

Hanukkah is a Jewish celebration of rededication of the Temple of Jerusalem. This eight-day ceremony signifies the Miracle of the Oil. According to the Talmud, there was only enough oil to fuel the eternal flame of the temple for one day. It would take eight days to prepare new oil. The one-day supply of oil burned for eight days and preserved the eternal flame. For this reason, among others, millions of Jewish people celebrate this ceremony by burning candles in their households. Each night for eight nights, a new candle is lit upon the menorah in order for passers-by to be reminded of the holy-day miracle. This tradition celebrates the transcendence of the Jewish people and their role in human history. It is symbolic of their perseverance over adversity; and of their dedication to their monotheistic God. It signifies our faith and reassures the purpose of our journey through life.

Kwanzaa is a festival of welcoming the first harvest to the home. This ceremony was first introduced to the United States in 1966 by Dr. Maulana Karenga. It is a week-long celebration of thanksgiving. Kwanzaa is based on the five values of: ingathering, reverence, commemoration, recommitment and celebration. The seven principles of: unity, self-determination, collective work and responsibility, cooperative economics, purpose, creativity and faith symbolize the roots of African Americans in agriculture. It signifies their collective labor and honors their ancestral origins. This celebration represents the sense of commitment the parent has to their children and the hopefulness associated with a younger generation. It embraces the love we have for one another.

These three significant observances represent our hope, our faith and our love toward one another. This month, January 2007, let us forge forward toward a greater good for all. Hold on, true and strong, to the significance of these traditions. Allow them to render to you a spirit devoted to family and community. If not, perhaps our destiny will be down the road that delivers us into a period reflecting the tragic events of this past year? Perhaps new signs will prevail and a new season will triumph, a season of discontent, a season of chaos

Contemporary Signs and Seasons:
A Reflection

It is with this in mind that we must recognize the choices we now face and need to commit ourselves to. The purpose of this article is to pay homage to those who have been victimized by the violence unleashed on this community. To honor the families and friends who have needed to persevere and support one another as a result of this violence.

Sister Karen Klimczak was brutally slain as she fulfilled her vocation and continued on with her commitment to provide a safe haven of help for those in need. Her efforts to “stop the violence” were shaped and molded by the gentle and caring nature of her character. Today, she would be honored to know that her efforts are being carried on by her friends and colleagues at the Bissonette House. The “Dove of Peace,” derived from the biblical story of Noah and the Arch, symbolizes her cause. And the slogan “Help Leave Peace Prints” has continued to echo throughout our community.

Officer Joseph Longobardo was violently murdered and Officer Donald Baker Jr. was critically injured as they performed their sworn duty to protect the citizens of New York State. Hundreds of State Troopers honored Joseph Longobardo not only by their attendance as he was laid to rest; but by their professional commitment of rightfully and lawfully continuing their pursuit of his accused assailant. Throughout the search and during the arrest, they continued to uphold the integrity and veracity of the oath which Officer Longobardo so respected and lived by.

The senseless shooting of two Buffalo Police Officers causes us to question the climate of our community. Officer Carl Andolina was shot twice and is at home recovering from his wounds, while Officer Patricia Parete continues to fight for her life in the intensive care unit at ECME. A candle light vigil was held at the scene of the shooting and community support was incredible. It was encouraging to see that political differences and the competitive spirit of the business community were eclipsed by the warmth and concern of a neighborhood that encompassed all of WNY.

The insensible drive-by shootings that victimize our inner city youth and the cowardly home invasions that tyrannize our elderly continue to plague our streets and haunt our neighborhoods. Carjackings, mall robberies, assaults in public parks seem to be becoming the norm of our society. What can we do? What options do we have?

Future Signs and Seasons:
A Choice

Just as we, as individuals, commit ourselves as to how we display the seasonal customs of celebrations, we must decide as to how we will demonstrate our commitment toward the future of our community. Will the signs we display continue to be those of violence, anger and hostility toward one another? Or will they be those of Sister Karen Klimczak, “Peaceprints” forged with the humility yet ferventness of her spirit? Will they be those of Officer Joseph Longobardo, of a sworn duty, an honorable oath, and a commitment toward a peaceful society? Will they be those of Officer Patricia Parete, who inspired a whole community to come together in an effort to crush the boundaries of indifference?

This January let us begin to choose the signs of the seasons that we are hopeful will determine our destiny as a race; the human race. Let us begin to focus on our similarities, not our differences. Let us commit ourselves a peaceful lifestyle, for what a joyous season we could generate for generations to come. Let not the lovechild of the ’60s and the peace marcher of the’70s remain only a symbol. Let them become a reality, a legacy for our children to enjoy. Let not the principles of freedom and justice that our men and women of the Armed Forces struggle to preserve become absurdities of pretense. Let them become a veracity of the human spirit that will sustain the goodness of mankind. Let not the hope, the faith and the love that our past traditions have preserved become futile. Let them remain a constant and valued function toward unity and peace.

The choice is yours. It has been entitled to the individual in all of us to choose their course. Let it begin this New Year. Let it begin within the sanctity of our own families as we gather together. Let it transcend toward our neighbors and our friends. Allow the spirit of peace and joy, which was dedicated and revered during the past month of December, to go beyond. Allow it to become a season, a year, a lifetime. Let it begin with you!

Photo by John Feico  
Photo by John Feico  
Photo by John Feico  
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