It’s my favorite time of year. I love seeing all the holiday decorations being put up around town, it warms my heart to read the “Letters to Santa” that are mailed into the office and taking photos of the various parades and tree lightings across the county for the newspaper hardly seems like work.
Being Jewish, my family and I don’t celebrate Christmas. But that doesn’t stop me from admiring all the beautiful lights and decorations, partaking in community holiday events or even singing along with carols that are played on the radio.
Actually, I used to feel weird about that last one until my mom told me that “all the good Christmas songs were written by Jews anyway,” so it was OK.
Seriously, Google it.
This year has been especially fun because it’s the first time my son, Ben, has been old enough to really get excited about the holidays. Lucky for me, I don’t have to wait until the end of December because this year Chanukah started on Sunday night.
I fried latkes, my husband lit the menorah, and Ben gleefully opened presents while singing “Happy birthday” to everyone. We tried to explain to him that it was Chanukah and not a birthday party, but, you know, he’s 3, and it was cute …
Many people are surprised to learn that traditionally, Chanukah is not a major Jewish celebration. It carries neither the importance nor the reverence as, say, Passover or Rosh Hashanah. In fact, in parts of Israel, it’s not unusual for the holiday to pass by completely unobserved.
At my house, that’s not an option.
Growing up, I remember Jewish families who refused to let their children participate in school Christmas parties and concerts. They kept their kids home for the parades and would never have dreamed of decorating their house — and I understand, I really do. There’s always that fear (whether real or not) of an impressionable mind being lured away from their Jewish roots by the extravaganza that is “Christmas in America.”
When it comes to holiday traditions, you guys are really hard to compete with. Let’s just face it — Christmas is fun.
Since having kids of my own, I have evolved a slightly different outlook. I figure that if I try and keep all that Christmas stuff away from my boys they’ll just end up resenting me. So I say go for it. Watch Rudolph on TV and go ahead and wave at Santa during the parade — it’s all good.
You don’t have to exclude yourself from a good time to maintain the boundaries of your religion. When they’re older I’ll use the same analogy my Mom always did: celebrating Christmas is like going to a friend’s birthday party. It’s not your birthday, but you can still have fun with your friend.
Now that I think about it, maybe Ben exclaiming “Happy birthday!” to everyone last night wasn’t that far off the mark after all.
Kasie Strickland is a staff writer for The Easley Progress, The Pickens Sentinel and Powdersville Post and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views expressed in this column are those of the writer only and do not represent the newspaper’s opinion.