The Reason for the Season

Have I mentioned that I love Channukah? It’s all the fun and none of the religious obligation of other Jewish observances, and is built on the universal theme of all Jewish celebrations: They tried to kill us, they didn’t, let’s eat! And it’s really hard to go wrong with a holiday built around getting together with friends and eating fried food. It also feels really good to me to assert an alternative holiday celebration into this Christmas-obsessed season. I’m surprised to find myself agreeing with right-wing whack jobs that putting the Christ in Christmas is a good idea. I’m culturally well versed enough to understand that the early Christians appropriated pagan and Roman winter celebrations, and that the tree is actually a hearkening back to pagan celebrations. But when everyone forgets that Christmas is a religious holiday celebrating the birth of the baby Jesus, and creates instead a fake ecumenical holiday called Xmas where we celebrate the great credit rating and purchasing power of Santa Claus, it’s easy for folks to forget that we have a diversity of religious and cultural traditions in this country. It’s seen as almost un-American to choose not to celebrate Christmas fully, by buying plastic crap you can’t afford and eating your face off. And while I don’t mind folks wishing me a Merry Christmas (most of the time), I do balk at the look of utter confusion when I say I’m not Christian, as though there was not relevance. I’ve even had people say to me, “Oh, you don’t have to be Christian to celebrate Christmas!” Strangely true, but still so wrong.

So this holiday season, I’ll keep putting the “ish” in Jewish, and will have my party celebrating fried potatoes the success of the Jews in preserving religious and cultural traditions in the face of oppression. And then Ellison and I will get our pagan tree, and decorate it with ornaments that document our travels and special times we’ve spent together. And I’ll try to weather the oppressiveness of celebration by saying, “thank you” with grace in the face of holiday wishes. Speaking of wishes….wish me luck!


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