Last night the festival of Hanukkah began. As each year cycles into Hanukkah, I remember my child self. I went to a Presbyterian elementary school, where one of the teachers told us that Hanukkah wasn't very important, that Jewish people had just invented it so that their children would have a holiday that could compete with Christmas.
Now, I happened to have a Jewish neighbor, who decorated the house with blue lights. After school, I marched right over there to inform them of their phony holiday. I still remember the mom gently explaining what the holiday was all about and how ancient it really was, how it pre-dated Christmas. I was chastened, and I had learned an important lesson about respecting the culture of other people.
I love the story of Hanukkah, although I've since met many Jewish people who admit their uneasiness with the holiday (see this New York Times article, for example). I also love Christmas--it's always been my favorite season. I remember having a conversation with my father, who argued that Christians should hold Easter as their favorite holiday. I agree intellectually. But emotionally, my heart belongs to Christmas.
I'm lucky, I think. I don't have those conflicted emotions about Christmas. I love giving and getting presents, but I'm perfectly happy to agree to not exchange gifts or to give money to charity. I choose the Christmas activities I'll do; I don't feel the societal pressure to have a perfect holiday. Some years we send cards, but other years we don't. Some years I bake a lot, but recently I don't. I try to have some activities that benefit charities. I enjoy the lights as I drive at night.
Yesterday, a woman at work said, "They're playing Christmas music on the radio. Already. Are you O.K. with that?"
I pointed out that it was after Thanksgiving, and then I made a confession, "I play Christmas music year round."
When I need an emotional lift, I reach for a Christmas CD. I'm happy to have such an easy comfort. I also realize that I'm lucky that Christmas gives me emotional comfort. So many people don't have that option.
So, as our holidays shift into high gear (and our Hindu friends recover from their holiday), I wish us all the emotional comfort that we might need this time of year--and if they're calorie-free and low-cost, so much the better!
feeling the feelings…
1 year ago