DEAR READERS: Today we celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -- the great American civil rights leader, martyred in 1968, who dedicated his life to furthering equal rights for all Americans.
When Dr. King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964, he said: "Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."
With bloodshed and violence still such destructive forces in this world, there is much to be learned from his insight, his wisdom and his example. -- ABBY
DEAR ABBY: A friend of mine and his wife divorced several years ago. When their son turned 18, he changed his name to his mother's maiden name. I personally think it's a slap in the father's face. Have you heard of this before, and don't you think it's mean? -- CURIOUS IN OHIO
DEAR CURIOUS: I have heard of it in the case of a child who, for whatever reason, has become alienated from his or her parent. Is it mean? It certainly isn't a compliment, because it indicates the child does not want to be identified with the father, nor to be reminded that the man ever existed. Before you judge the young man, you should remember that there is always a reason.
DEAR ABBY: "Weary Elves in Tennessee" asked you whether a Christmas tree should be taken down before or after the New Year.
Christmas trees are a matter of personal taste and were not part of the Christian practice until fairly recently in our history. The Christmas feast itself lasts for 12 days, until Twelfth Night, Jan. 5, the eve of the Feast of the Epiphany, which falls on Jan. 6, a more ancient feast than Christmas. (Many of your readers may have grown up in households where gifts were exchanged on Jan. 6, recalling the gifts of the Magi.)
Lately, more and more Christians are trying to keep the season of Advent: the four weeks preceding the feast of Christmas. If one wants to honor the quiet anticipation of Advent, a simple wreath or an undecorated tree makes a wonderful December home addition. The household can gradually adorn the tree in the last week before Christmas.
On Christmas Eve, when darkness falls, the tree is lit for the first time. It is lit every night through Epiphany, which is also called the Feast of Lights. Jan. 7 might be a good time to take down the tree, though many Christians wait until the following Sunday evening (an extension of the Epiphany feast), or on or about the 20th day after Christmas.
As Episcopalian Christians, we usually strive for "via media" -- the middle way -- avoiding extremes. I would go for the 12 days of Christmas, a solid and rich historical and spiritual tradition of celebrating the feast. But as a former volunteer fireman, I loved your advice to "Weary Elves," Abby. By all means, DO take the tree down when the needles are overly dry and get it to the recycling lot. -- THE REV. MARK STANGER, CANON PRECENTOR, GRACE CATHEDRAL, SAN FRANCISCO
DEAR FR. STANGER: Thank you for chiming in on this one. In this case, the "epiphany" was mine.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)