Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Happy Holidays--all of them

Some years I don't feel a need to explain, some years I do. This year I do, so: I am a Jew who celebrates Christmas. No intermarriage in my family, just long-time residence in--and affection for--a very Christian community. There were no other Jews in my grade-school classes ever (my younger brother also went to the school, and there was a much older girl somewhere in the system who was also Jewis, so I wasn't completely alone). It was either figure out how to draw a Star of David on my own, or draw a Christmas tree with everyone else. And the others were so happy drawing the tree.

I don't think I would have been ostracized if I'd refused the tree. There were no other Jews, but there was a boy who was a Jehovah's Witness in the class, and he went and stood in the hall not only during any sort of holiday festivity but also during the national anthem and Lord's Prayer (it was a very small old-fashioned country school) every morning. No one ever teased him, and he was actually a well-liked kid, but it couldn't have been easy to miss out on all the festive stuff.

Christmas has a lot of good things that go with it. This year I've been involved in a couple different charity drives, for children both in this community and overseas. I've been to beautiful parties and received cards covered with glitter and eaten delicious food, and am happy to think there's more to come.

I am sad to think that anyone would ever feel I was being disrespectful to my Jewish identity by enjoying other people's traditions. And I would be sad also to think that anyone would think I was disrespectful of Christianity because I take only bits and pieces from that tradition.

And I would also be upset to be held as an example for why the Christmas-observant don't need to be sensitive to the non-observant. "Rebecca likes Christmas and she's *Jewish*, so I don't know why I need to say 'Happy holidays' or take down this giant public creche..."

I'm easygoing, fairly secular, and deeply festive--I am non-extrapolatable, though there may well be others like me. Every year I gear up for Christmas with a tiny bit of trepidation over these misunderstandings, but mainly joy that I'm going to hear Barenaked Ladies sing "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" and eat eggnog flavoured candy canes again. And put tinsel in my hair.

And of course I wish you whatever your heart desires this December, of whatever denomination your wishes fall into.

This picture is hard to make out, but that's my little fourth-night menorah in the front, and my little overlit tree in the back. I guess it is appropriate that this pic, like so much of what is written above, is all blurry.


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