Monday, December 10, 2007

Holiday, Celebrate (it would be so nice?)

I recently got an email from the office manager at my job. It was about holiday decorations, letting everyone know that there would be a small tree in the reception area, and that everyone was invited to add an ornament. This is fine with me; I like the smell of a fresh tree, enjoy seeing decorations, love Christmas cookies. That I am not Christian and do not decorate my own house (or cubicle) does not dampen my enjoyment of Christmas trappings in the world at large.

What does dampen my enjoyment is the use of "holiday" when "Christmas" is clearly meant. A cut evergreen inside? Origins aside, this is a Christian tradition. I know, as complaints go, this is fairly nit-picky. Still, I am annually annoyed by the melting-pot blandifying silliness of misguided efforts to make all faiths and traditions welcome by merely pretending that the decorations and celebrations mark some larger universal moment of joy. Feh. (or is that Bah?)

Hanukkah (a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar) includes no trees or shiny baubles. Without having conducted extensive research, I am fairly sure that Ramadan and Kwanzaa are similarly tree-free. I even read something recently that said that pagans would never have cut down trees, just to stick them in their homes and watch them die. They did apparently decorate them. That doesn't mean that non-Christians are all offended by displays of other peoples' traditions. (Ok, some are, but let's call a creche a creche.)

Almost everyone in my office is at least nominally Christian. I can't vouch for their level of belief or practice, much less for their denominations, but even the churchless in the group seem to celebrate Christmas in some fashion. I am happy to allow the dominant culture to display its happy traditions and trappings. Just call it what it is. It does not make me feel more included to call it a holiday display, when it is clearly a Christian one. The traditions of Jews, Muslims and other non-Christians are not honored by shoving them into a Christian format. Putting a six-pointed star on an evergreen and calling it a Hanukkah bush doesn't celebrate my traditions, it homogenizes them into meaninglessness.

Living as a nominally "interfaith" couple (to the extent that two secular people can be such a thing) we deal with Christmas by going to it. We celebrate the holiday with Chris's family, at their house. His mother can decorate as much as she wants, which is a fair bit, as it happens. I am fine with that, and my job is to ice the Christmas cookies. Which we all call Christmas cookies. We went to Chris's parents' house this weekend to find and decorate a Christmas tree. I brought the menorah, and we lit candles with my in-laws on Saturday night. They were thrilled to participate, and appreciate that I participate by celebrating Christmas with their favorite traditions.

As a Jew living in a Christian country, I prefer celebrating more holidays to celebrating some meaningless mush of christmaka or quanza-dan. Whatever you are celebrating, I hope it is a wonderful time to enjoy what you have and celebrate with family and friends. And eat, don't forget the eating. Because that is what any good holiday is really about, right?

monkey boy, phoning it in
Is it me, or is Monkey Boy just phoning it in?


  1. Heck yeah. I wish I lived near ANYONE who could make a latke.

  2. I have a menorah ornament clearly meant for a Christmas tree. I have no idea where it came from or how I ended up with it, but it makes me laugh every single time.

    I'm all for being PC and saying "happy holidays" but you're right...there's no reason to call it a holiday display if it's a clearly meant for Kwazaa. Or whatever.

  3. Food. It's all about the food, in the end.

    I hate the PC use of "holiday" - it's so namby-pamby.

  4. Definitely phoning it in!
    We'll be going the Buddha/Crib route again but we've added the Advent Calendar to Xmas this year, and thankfully his decidedly multi-faith nursery is firmly on the side of Christmas rather than holidays.

  5. Try being a "christian" married to a muslim and celebrating holidays. : ) We decided long ago that we will celebrate everything and embrace each religion. Plus, we have lots Jewish friends so we celebrate Hanukkah as well. We are diversified in our celebrations. : ) I just believe no matter what religion you are or what you believe, just treating everyone well and with love is what is important.

  6. i'm counting on it all being a wash in the we find peace and joy, calm and hope is every human's journey, i believe...

    cling to what we know, right?

  7. This all bears repeating. I have learned -- at work -- actually how annoying it is that the dominant culture is out to ramp up Hannukah from the minor holiday it is to stamp out some of the over active PCness of our culture.

    Thanks for encouraging me to enjoy my Christmas to its fullest.

  8. good points made here. esp in reference to food. I like to eat. I like it a lot.

    latkes, applesauce, sugar cookies sprinkled with colorful sugar, etc. I'll eat it.

    I'm cheap like that.