This was actually, originally a comment I wrote on the Ganesh Chaturthi thread on SM. I initially wrote it because I wanted to get the discussion back on track, but it's so long and potentially distracting, I'm cross-posting it/transplanting it here, so anyone who feels like discussing it can do so here, while keeping a Holiday thread as merry as it should be, there. :)
Recently, when Abhi wrote a thought-provoking post on Mother Theresa, early in the thread I expressed misgivings so inarticulately, my discomfort with the entire news story must have been painfully apparent. I'm not even a huge fan of MT, nor am I Catholic, for that matter, but I worried about the discussion becoming hostile to Christianity, which is a part of my life, and an important one at that. I was concerned that the entire "hot issue" would become proxy for people who wanted to mock the mythology of a man in the middle east 2,000 years ago and that ugliness would creep in; I don't know if it did, I couldn't bear to look.
Everyone has the right to their thoughts and obviously, should feel free to express them, that's only fair. But we should also, always remember that it is probably, almost always the case that whatever it is you think is an amusing news story or something to debate raucously...is a part of someone else's faith, core beliefs, identity. It is a situation which is ripe for pain, offense and anger. You could take this to ridiculous extremes, but you don't have to-- most of us were taught, by our parents, to tread carefully around religion, out of a respect which ought to be mutual.
Someone's mythology is someone else's messiah. I wish we would be so sensitive as to keep that in mind continually, not because it's self-serving or b/c I feel like perching above some high horse, but because it's the kind thing to do. Courtesy mandates that you not hurt someone or make them uncomfortable, that if anything you strive to achieve the opposite. It's the right thing to do.
Holidays are perhaps the only doors which "others" have to religions with which they are unfamiliar. There's the potential for a lot of beauty there, for joy which creates a deep, internal understanding which permeates how we think and treat each other. My memories of synagogue-hopping at Purim or celebrating Vaisakhi at the Maryland Gurudwara have made me extra fond of Jewish and Sikh culture. That's nothing novel, but it is powerful.
Now I want to know more about this holiday, specifically what sweets are involved, because I heard that
a) Ganapati loooooves sweets (which just enchants me, since I eat cake for breakfast and dessert after lunch and dinner!)
b) he's associated with my second favorite childhoold breakfast: kozhakottai! (I loved eating the excess filling, which was nothing more than freshly-ground coconut/thenga with an egregious amount of brown sugar)