REPOSTING, from 2016, with some minor changes: A #Jewish #Buddhist for the #Christmas/ #Chanukah/ #Solstice/#Kwanzaa Season
Christmas and I are not friends. We are not even good neighbors. I was raised Jewish in predominantly Jewish neighborhoods, school systems, summer camps and other social encounters. This made me an outsider in an insider world every December.
Despite about 75% Jewish population in our local public schools, the relentless Christian-ness of the USA permeated. Most of our teachers and all of the school administrators were not Jewish. Therefore, we Jewish students were forced to learn and sing Christmas carols alongside our Christian classmates every year in music classes and choirs in our classes and assemblies. I mouthed but would not sing songs with lyrics like “Jesus, our God,” or “Christ, our King.” I refused to “celebrate,” but I would go along as required.
I hated it.
All of my childhood and most of my young adult life, I also hated Christmas. I hated the trees, the lights, the candy canes, and, especially, the incessant carols on muzak almost everywhere we went. I hated the silly fashion and accessory affectations (reindeer hats, Santa sweaters, elves in snow globes on chains, fake snow on windowsills) and the massively wasteful appropriation of space and time every December. This extravaganza has gotten worse over the decades, now beginning prior to Hallowe’en and including some year-round “Santa Villages,” “Christmas” stores and such.
Christian adults still post and say ridiculous, ignorant things to me and other non-Christians, like: “Christmas isn’t religious; it’s American.” And, “It’s not a Christmas tree. It’s a holiday tree.” Or, my personal favorite, “You can celebrate Christmas and still be Jewish. I know lots of people who do!”
I belong to several authors/writers groups online and in person, and without exception, they are filled with eager, interesting people. Except, at Christmas. Then, they devolve into ignorant, unaware bigots who claim things like: “If we call it a ‘Holiday’ sale instead of a ‘Christmas’ sale, we’ll get fewer hits on Google”; and, the most appalling, “We did it your way last year. This year, it’s a ‘Christmas’ sale/program/event.”
The most insulting? “You are included if you feel included. Your choice.”
For every kid who feels oppressed by the pervasive and invasive Christmassification of everything for almost two months every year, it’s difficult to separate hating the holiday-ness from despising the people who rightfully celebrate it. I often did/do not succeed in making that distinction. I breathe a sigh of relief every December 26.
I celebrated the Solstice for a few years. We were tentatively friends, paganism and I. I even created a Solstice “advent” calendar with thirteen paper strips as “rays” of the sun to be unfolded, one on each of the thirteen days prior to December 21. I liked this because each “ray” jad written on it a quality or positivity we wanted to affirm or invite into our lives. That was fun and interesting, and I liked the symbols and intention, but Solstice and I did not remain friends, either.
For about twenty years, after our son was born, we—my son’s Christian (Episcopalian-raised)/Sufi and somewhat Muslim father and sometimes members of his family—celebrated a kind of Christmas, usually when at one of their homes.
For two years in the late 1980s, when I worked as the Director of Religious Education for the local Unitarian Universalist “Church,” I/we “celebrated” several December holidays, including Kwanzaa. i even went to church and sang Christmas carols and enjoyed it a little, holding a lit candle and the whole shebang.
Mostly, I hostessed Chanukah parties for my mostly Christian friends and half-Jewish son (not Jewish at all, except by birth). and and then my Jewish/fake Mormon/Buddhist female partner. I did this primarily because I liked to make and eat Chanukah food and give presents. Also, my mom (bless her) mailed (from Missouri) a huge box every year after our son was born that had eight gifts for him and many for us (some were small, like a pair of socks, but still: very welcomed!). So, we needed a way to spread out the opening of these and other gifts so he wouldn’t be overwhelmed and not appreciate any of them properly. I created and shared an English lyric about visualizing miracles to be sung when lighting the Chanukah candles (since the religious parts of the Jewish holidays and I parted ways when I was about ten years old) for each of the eight nights.
I tried to make Chanukah mine. It only kind of worked, and only for a while (mostly for the years that our son lived in my house or was visiting for the holiday). But, since it wasn’t an authentic, deep relationship, Chanukah and I gradually drifted apart.
Partly, this drift occurred because I became a Buddhist. That made “the holiday season” even more irrelevant. I not only stopped celebrating Christmas, but don’t do much with Chanukah or Solstice any longer, either.
Each fall, when I can afford it, I buy some gifts for friends and family members (honoring whatever they celebrate), and wish people well for whatever they celebrate. But, I also try to keep to myself on the actual days of these holidays, since they’re not “mine.” I really do not celebrate or believe in them.
I do not miss these holidays. I do not feel left out. I do not feel angry. I do not feel deprived, alone, or otherwise sad or depressed. These just aren’t my holidays. I view them with slight amusement and a keen detachment over the last fifteen years, as if I were visiting from another culture (which I kind of am).
This year it is a little more difficult to escape both major holidays because Chanukah and Christmas are coinciding on the calendar: Christmas Eve is the first night of Chanukah and it ends on New Year’s Eve for the first time, ever, in my life. I don’t have much money, but I do want to buy some gifts for loved ones and this is as good of an excuse as any to do so.
I’ve gone through despising, hating, avoiding, celebrating, enjoying, participating, encouraging, hostessing, attending, bowing out to relinquishing December holidays over my six+ decades. I’m quite happy, now, taking the parts I like (mostly some good food and a few songs, gift-giving and receiving, days off) and ignoring the rest.
Please don’t take it personally that I don’t participate in or celebrate any holidays in the fall “holiday season” the ways you do.
Enjoy your holiday(s). Really.
Just don’t impose them on me. And, by the way, I hate Capitalism, for real.