One day a few years ago, while driving to court I heard a DJ on the radio making a joke about all the different holidays which overlap this time of year. He ended his segment by wishing everyone a Merry Rama-Hana-Kwanz-Mas. I wondered exactly what he meant. And then, I found out.
After court I was heading to deliver some paperwork to Hassan one of my clients regarding an insurance matter. He owned Hassan’s Magic Carpets which specialized in the sale of luxurious handmade Persian rugs.
As I entered his store, I overheard Hassan telling his employee Steven, a young African-American college student that “Christmas is coming we must have a Christmas tree!”
“That’s weird,” Steven replied, “Why would you want a Christmas tree, you’re a Muslim.”
“The Magi were from Persia were they not? And am I not a Persian?” Hassan replied referring the Three Wise Men who according to scripture brought gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to the infant Jesus. Persia was the ancient name of the country we now know as Iran.
Before Steven could reply Hassan then stated, “You are an American—go find a Christmas tree and bring it here.”
“But,” Steven replied, “I’m an atheist—I don’t believe in religion.”
“You celebrated Kwanza last year, isn’t that just after Christmas?” Hassan shot back.
“And—whether you believe or not does not matter—a Christmas tree is good for business.” With that Hassan handed Steven a company credit card and sent him buy a Christmas tree.
Hassan’s gaze fixed upon me as he said with a smile, “Ah the lawyer who speaks to the dead.”
“I need your signature so I can finalize this insurance claim,” I said as I opened my brief case, “And I would like to wish you a Happy Ramadan.”
“Thank you Mark,” Hassan replied warmly. “Ramadan ended yesterday, but please sit and have some coffee and baklava with me.” During the month long observance of Ramadan, Muslims must fast during daylight hours. It seemed to me that Hassan was only too happy to indulge in a cup of strong Turkish coffee and the pistachio and honey laded pastry delights of the Middle East.
I graciously accepted his invitation. I learned from my travels that not everyone does business the way Americans do, and it would be considered rude to just sign papers and dash off. I knew this was going to be a long meeting so I decided to make myself comfortable. Hassan’s show room reflected his proud Persian heritage. Instead of chairs, we sat upon large pillows around a small intricately designed dark wooden table set atop an immense and ornate Persian rug.
Hassan poured the coffee and presented me with baklava. We discussed everything from the insurance claim to the disease afflicting frankincense trees to what it was like for me to communicate with spirits.
Nearly two hours later, Steven arrived with a Christmas tree. It was a nine foot tall blue spruce which filled the show room with the fresh scent of pine. The pleasing aroma brought to me many happy childhood memories.
Hassan and I lent a hand in steadying the tree as Steven affixed it to the base.
“I found the best deal at Goldberg’s Christmas Trees, Sam Goldberg told me he was having a Hanukkah special.”
A Hanukah special on Christmas trees?
“Think about what happened today,” I remarked, “A Muslim sent an atheist to buy a Christian Christmas tree from a Jewish business.”
“That is perfect!” Hassan returned, “Get me the phone, I want to place an ad in the newspaper for our Christmas sale, ‘What better gift than a carpet from the land of the three Wise Men?”
“There is another way to look at it,” I interjected, “Perhaps our different cultures and religions should not divide us, but unite us in the realization that we are all the children of God.”
“So how does an atheist like me explain to customers a Christmas Tree that I bought from Jews in a Muslim’s store?”
Hassan gazed at me intensely, “Yes Mark, how do we explain such a thing?”
“I guess just wish everyone a Merry Rama-Hana-Kwanz-Mas!”
Mark Anthony the Psychic Lawyer
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