I had an opportunity this morning to spend some welcome "alone time". Just me, the sun, the wind, the water, and my thoughts. Here are some of those thinks that I thunk.
I am certain that for those who celebrate, Christmas morning is a whirlwind of family, traditions, food, maybe a bit of faith, and hopefully much joy. I wish much yuletide spirit to those who observe and for those who just relish in the connectedness. And while we Jews have had the unusual experience this year of having our Chanukah holiday coincide nicely with this holiest of Christian days, the fact still remains that despite the fun, frivolity, and festivity, our holiday is a minor one both in comparison and in general on our calendar. That said, it is impossible in our Western culture to avoid the season and so Chanukah often gets dragged along as the "Jewish Christmas" and as such we party, gift, overindulge, and like Jews on any holiday... oh boy do we eat.
But, as I sat quietly alone on this Christmas Day/First Day of Chanukah, I was very starkly aware that my holiday is not their "holy day". We who do not celebrate Christmas live on the fringes and in the shadows of this season. We peer through festive windows as outsiders and we watch holiday fare on television with a foreign sense of awe and a bit of wistful pleasure. And you know what? That is perfectly okay with me.
I have never quite understood this need for inclusive equality around this season. I am uninterested in generic holiday greetings. I happily wish anybody and everybody a "Merry Christmas" if they choose to bid me the same. Strangers aren't at all interested in my Judaism and I frankly have zero interest in enlightening them. I am perfectly content to leave the "Happy Chanukahs" or the "Chag Sameachs" to those who know or understand.
Christmas trees? Not in my home, but perfectly fine in the public square.
Santa? He's certainly not a universal symbol of ecumenical giving, but do I really care if he shows up at the local mall without a menorah erected as a token beside his village?
I am averse to ugly Chanukah sweaters, Chanukah gingerbread houses, Mensch on the Bench, blue and white door wreaths laden with gold chocolate gelt, Chanukah bushes, blue and white lights strung across garages, eight nights of gifts, Chanukah Harrys, dumbass Chanukah songs without context, and any other Jewish appropriation of Christmas that you might come up with. I am not waging war on Christmas. In fact, it is quite the opposite. I am giving their holiday its appropriate due and its proper standing. I feel that when we Jews engage in such an egregious elevating of our minor chag, we are in fact being disrespectful to the true meaning of Christmas.
Look. It is perfectly fine for us to celebrate Chanukah in a manner befitting the holiday. Light the shit out of those candles. Eat fried foods until your pores clog. Be joyous with family and friends and revel in the light. But remember that it is Chanukah and not the "Jewish Christmas". It demeans all of us of both faiths to wrongly equate the two.
This morning, I was alone on Christmas morning. I often am on this day. There was no excitement and no frenzy. The Husband was upstairs tapping away on his computer, my parents were luxuriously reading the paper like they do every Sunday, and at home, my children were making plans with each other to go to the movies. And even on this first day of Chanukah, all around me, Christmas was happening. Children were in their homes opening gifts, parents were planning breakfasts, and church-goers were dressed in their finest. For the first day of Chanukah, it felt an awful lot like Christmas....just like it should....for those who observe it.
Merry Christmas to my friends who observe.