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December 24th, 2005

Happy Whatever

I have a teeny tiny bit of a conflicted view about Christmas. I grew up Jewish. I still mark "Jewish" on forms, if I'm ever asked for religion. (Come to think of it, I don't remember the last time I was asked that question.)

But my family has always celebrated Christmas. My mother loved decorating for the holiday, and my atheist father gave in. We had a tree (and when I was a child, we invited scores of family friends - almost all Jews - to come decorate it) although we never had a star or an angel on top. We had pine boughs draped on stairways. We had Santas and reindeer and snowmen galore (in various folk art formats, including a set of nine fat, lazy bean-bag moose that my mother insisted were reindeer, even going so far as to sew a red pom-pom on "Rudolph's" nose.) Santa visited while we slept on Christmas Eve, and he left stockings and a big present for my brother and for me.

We never had a creche, though, and we never had wreaths (Mom insisted that those symbolized the Crown of Thorns) - until Mom found a braided cloth wreath that she really liked. We never pretended that our Christmas tree was a "Chanukah bush." We never pretended that Santa was "Chanukah Harry." We lit the menorah each night of Chanukah, and we said the appropriate Hebrew prayers (and, on nights that weren't Christmas, we opened small presents - usually from our Jewish relatives.)

I'm married to a man who was vaguely raised in a Christian tradition but who does not practice any faith. Last year, we set up a tree, and we very much enjoyed it. This year, we were overtaken by time and events, and we did not set up a tree. Yet, I'm very much looking forward to our Christmas meal. I played Christmas carols all afternoon as I completed my holiday cards (being sent to a variety of Christians, Jews, Moslems, and no-professed-faithers.)

I *like* it when people wish me Happy Holidays. I certainly don't mind when they wish me a Merry Christmas. I get a bit annoyed by Jews who turn Chanukah into "the Jewish Christmas" - it isn't; it's a minor holiday with an interesting historic raison d'etre (when the Temple was occupied, the eight-day autumn harvest festival was missed; therefore, the holiday we celebrate in December marks the reconsecration of the Temple and the missed harvest festival.)

And I'm *more* than a bit tired of hearing about the so-called war on Christmas. So:

To those celebrating Christmas - have a merry one.

To those celebrating Chanukah - may the light that you kindle tonight burn throughout the year.

To those without a specific celebration at this time of year - I hope that 2006 finds and keeps you well and happy!

Mindy, off to do some holiday cooking

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