I’m dreaming of an inclusive Christmas
“Deck the halls with boughs of hallah, fa la la la la, la la la la,” sang my nine-year-old daughter.
I snorted. “It’s Holly! Not hallah.”She made a face at me. “No, it’s hallah. People who aren’t Jewish can’t say the ‘ch’ sound.”
This time I just smiled. “Sweetie, hallah is a Jewish bread and ‘Deck the Halls’ is a Christian song. They don’t go together.”
“Why not?” she asked.
“Why not, indeed,” I thought. Here I am always preaching how people of all faiths should live together respectfully and peacefully. Why not in song?
I realized, if there was ever a time to coexist, it’s the December holidays. In our house we light candles and eat latkes, while our neighbors hang lights and drink eggnog. We buy gifts and they buy gifts. We celebrate a miracle and so do they. I, myself, am the perfect blend of the season. I am a Jew who was born on Christmas Eve.
My family happens to live in a town that is more prominently one religion than another. We certainly could have chosen to move to a town that leaned more heavily in our favor, but we felt that what our community lacked in Jews, it made up for in acceptance, respect, and inclusion. Most of the year, we don’t feel like a minority in our community because of our faith.
But right around Thanksgiving, when the holiday decorations fill the landscape of our sleepy town, we do notice the difference. Christmas lights, wreaths, and garlands swath the town. Wire-framed carolers sing a silent song on the lawn of our municipal center. It seems the whole world is bathed is a sea of green and red, and our colors of preference are blue and white.
To be honest, I love Christmas. I love the lights and the songs and the fake Santa at the mall. I love the Christmas cheer and the celebrations and even the silly reindeer some people put on their roofs. I am moved by the holiness of Christmas day, which is so meaningful to so many of my friends. True, it’s not my religion, but I appreciate and share in the beauty of it all the same. I simply wish that more people would want to share in the beauty of mine.
Although nowhere should it be condoned, ignoring minority faiths in a community is certainly more commonplace in some parts of the county than others. However, I live in the suburb of a major metropolitan city, which, by the way, happens to have the largest concentration of Jews in the country. True, that concentration seems to have skipped over my particular town, but there are enough of “my people” in our town, and many more in neighboring communities, that one would think it would behoove our town leaders to be more culturally sensitive during the holidays.
Of course, I have had 40-some years to come to terms with my Jewish place in a Christmas world. But I still feel a twinge every year when the decorations go up and the questions begin.
“How come there aren’t any Hanukka movies out, Mom?” my daughter asks me every year. I don’t have an answer for her.
“How come there aren’t any Hanukka songs on the radio?” she wonders as we listen to a barrage of Christmas music in the car. And again, I am silent.
“How come there are Christmas lights and decorations on the street lamps, but no menoras?” she wants to know as we drive through our town.
“Most of the people in this town celebrate Christmas,” I tell her.
“But we celebrate Hanukka and we live in this town too, so shouldn’t there be something for us?”
It’s a rhetorical question. But the answer is, yes there should. And there should be something for those people in our town who celebrate Kwanzaa, too. There should be something for everyone, or there should be nothing at all. There should be peace on earth and good will to all. There should be a lot of things. But most of all, today, in this county, there shouldn’t be the need to have to say what there should be.
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