batyatoon: (festival of lights)
batyatoon ([personal profile] batyatoon) wrote2007-12-15 06:37 pm

(no subject)

Pursuant to this post: Here's what I've been thinking about.

[Edited To Add: Friend of mine linked to this post, so I'm unlocking it for the benefit of thems as want to follow said link. Be aware that I wrote it with the intention of friendlocking it, so it may not be as tactfully phrased as something I intended to be public.]

I grew up in Seattle in the 1980s, in what at the time was a fairly small Jewish community. My parents both taught at the more traditional of the two Jewish private schools, which my siblings and I attended. It was Orthodox in practice and philosophy, if not necessarily in population; I knew, for instance, that many of my schoolmates didn't keep a kosher home. My nearest Jewish neighbors were about a quarter of a mile away.

I don't know if I can explain the sense of not truly being part of the world you live in. How chance words and phrases on TV or the radio are constant reminders of your otherness -- words like church or Jesus, sure, but also words like McDonalds or marshmallows or Saturday morning cartoons. How none of the characters in the books you read have names like yours or your friends'. It's not something you think about a lot; it's just always there.

And as you've probably noticed even if you don't have the automatic otherness association: this time of year, Christmas gets everywhere. Its associations are so strong and so pervasive that it becomes impossible to separate Christmasness from the sound of tinkling bells, or the colors red and green in combination, or candy canes, or pine trees, or reindeer, or Victorian winter garb, or holly, or log fires, or snowflake patterns. And those images are on everything mass-produced.

One month of the year when absolutely everything says NOT YOURS.

I remember envying the houses that had Christmas lights, and simultaneously being vehemently sure I didn't want to have them on our house. I remember saying wryly to my big brother that we would never see a "Happy Hannukah, Charlie Brown" TV special. I remember being delighted on seeing a rare TV station break wishing its viewers a happy Hannukah, even if they didn't spell it right, or a menorah-and-dreidel decoration at the grocery store, even if it looked a little pathetic next to the real decorations.

If it had come out only a few years sooner, Adam Sandler's song would have delighted me even more. When you feel like the only kid in town without a Christmas tree / Here's a list of people who are Jewish, just like you and me...

But here's the thing.

I don't know whether it's the fact that I now live in New York City, a town that's got more Jews than Jerusalem. Or the fact that I spent two years living in Jerusalem itself, a place where December 25th can come and go entirely unnoticed by most of the population. Or the fact that it's 2007, not 1985, and things have changed. Or the fact that I'm twenty-some years older.

But the acknowledgement of Hannukah around Christmastime has become obligatory, and I don't know that I like it any better than the ignoring of it.

Part of it is that frequently it's perfunctory, an afterthought, and usually a cheap afterthought at that. In the lobby of the building where I work, this month, there is a gorgeous tall evergreen tree decorated in red and gold, with tiny ornamental giftwrapped boxes and gilded pinecones and glossy spheres and strings of tiny lights. And three wreaths, similarly decorated. And potted poinsettias, red and white. And a grand piano moved in for the occasion, with a live pianist at certain hours and a sign above it saying that the holiday music has been sponsored by some company or other. And ... a plug-in menorah in white and blue plastic sitting on the front desk. Sing it with me, kids: one of these things is not like the others.

But here and there I've seen attempts to make the Chanukah decorations as rich and lavish as the Christmas ones, and -- it doesn't work. It's overdone. Because Chanukah is not that major a holiday.

Chanukah is not what we have instead of Christmas. Seriously. It's not that big a deal. And there's another part of the irritation right there: you* don't know a goddamn thing about my holiday. The only reason you're acknowledging it at all is because it comes at the same time as your major holiday. I didn't hear a Happy Sukkot from you back in September and I'm not going to hear a Happy Shavuot from you in June, and if I hear a Happy Passover from you in April it'll only be because it's roughly at the same time as Easter, but you're going to be telling me Happy Hannukah all December even after Chanukah's over. Because what you're really saying is Merry Christmas. You're just changing the words.

* I do not, of course, mean here "you who are reading this now."

And -- okay, I do appreciate that they're changing the words. I do. Because it means an acknowledgment that not everybody in the world is Christian, that not everybody in the world celebrates the same holidays, and (importantly) that it's okay that not everybody in the world is and does. And that's a crucial thing to recognize, and I'm glad of it.

But there we run into the other part of the discomfort, which has to do with taking that too far in the other direction and reaching an attitude of all-embracing inclusiveness that wants to tell us that there's no real difference between our holidays. We use different words, but really we all mean the same thing: it's about light and warmth against the winter's dark and cold, and song against the winter's silence, and family, and togetherness, and love. And those are the things we all share, regardless of what we call ourselves, and in the face of that our differences aren't important at all, and we can all be united in celebration of our shared light and joy. And that's a beautiful thought, isn't it?

Except that that's not what Chanukah is about at all.

Except that what Chanukah commemorates is the Jewish people's successful resistance against the Syrian-Greeks and their attempt to absorb us into their religious and secular culture, first by welcome and then by force. It's about the time we fought a war for the right to study our Torah and practice our laws and throw their gods the hell out of our Temple. The right to say to the dominant culture: we are separate, we are distinct, we are other, and you will not make us like yourselves.

And -- okay, for a lot of people Christmas isn't about the birth of Jesus. And for a lot of people Hannukah isn't about the victory against assimilation. And we commemorate our different holidays in similar ways because we're all human, and we have the urge to make noise and light fires in the depth of winter when it's cold and dark, and when we were first establishing our holiday traditions we did what seemed appropriate. And I guess for those to whom the holiday is just about light and warmth and family and song, there really isn't any significant difference between them.

But it's still ironic -- bitterly so, sometimes -- for this of all our holidays to be the one that is most often combined with the Christian holiday that corresponds to it in the calendar.

I do have more to say, but this was getting too long. More later, maybe.

[identity profile] 2007-12-16 12:10 am (UTC)(link)
For as long as I can remember, City Park down here has gone all-out every winter decking out trees and lining paths with lights and decorations that you can walk or drive through the park to see, and it's colorful and magical and I will never outgrow it, and it used to be called Christmas in the Oaks.

Maybe ten years ago, they added in a giant lit-up menorah and I think something to acknowledge Kwanza, and changed the name to Celebration in the Oaks.

And it's the sort of thing where I want to commend them for the thought--especially because there are people in my family who complain and say they should have kept it all-Christmas, which makes me want to take the other side just because--but it's so clearly a token nod to other religions and celebrations, in what's otherwise still an overwhelmingly Christmasy thing.

What I think is a little better is that although I went to Catholic school for my whole childhood, I was taught a little about Chanukah and Passover, but also Purim, Yom Kippur, and Rosh Ha-Shana. As you point out, there are others, but the schools I went to did seem to be making an effort to do more than just present Chanukah and Passover as "Jewish Christmas and Easter".

[identity profile] 2007-12-16 12:56 am (UTC)(link)
Your schools did better than mine, then. Mind you, Religious Studies at the only school I ever took it at was taught by a woman who once told me in all seriousness that ouija boards were evil and dangerous.

I suspect she may have stuck to the letter of the law and no further concerning how much she had to teach us about other religions.

[identity profile] 2007-12-16 12:23 am (UTC)(link)
Most of what I would reply can probably be found in this post ( from last year. I'll probably post a variation on it this year as well.

Your thoughts, however, do remind me of a story told to me once by a TA I had in a course in ancient Jewish history (and, by an odd coincidence, I later found myself teaching her daughter). The woman organizing the Christmas assembly at her daughter's school asked the TA for a few Chanukah readings to add to the assembly. When the TA provided some appropriate readings, the organizer sniffed at them, declaring that they were not in the spirit of the holiday.

To which the TA replied, well, they may not be in the spirit of your holiday, but they are in the spirit of mine.

[identity profile] 2007-12-16 01:06 am (UTC)(link)
There are a whole lot of important questions arising from this, about selfness and otherness, and when tolerance shades into (or is apt to be seen as) condescension, and what exactly would be a right way to deal with concurrent holidays of differing religions...and whether it is in fact right, or even possible, for differing religions to coexist peacefully with mutual respect, when one says the truth is one thing and the other says it's something else.

I honestly don't know if there's any "right" answer. But it seems to me that the hard-won right to say to the dominant culture "we are other" comes with the inescapable corollary of there being times when absolutely everything in the dominant culture throws that back in your face. And I don't know if there's a right answer to that either.

And I want to say, like Tara, without minimising the importance of any of this, can we just skip it? Can I please just be wishing you and yours well in whatever way most pleases you right now? Because that's all I really want to do.

[identity profile] 2007-12-16 01:58 am (UTC)(link)
To some extent it's inevitable that people who don't share your culture, uh, won't share your culture. It's true that it would be nice if they were more knowledgeable. Certainly I think it's silly for them to try to act like they care about it when they demonstrably don't care enough to learn anything about it. But I would never suggest anyone has any sort of moral obligation to seek out that sort of knowledge (nor, I assume, would you).

....when I started this post I thought I had some sort of point to make, but I'm no longer sure what that might be. I guess it's something like: I agree that people are ignorant, but I don't think that this particular sort of ignorance is any more than an annoyance.

[identity profile] 2007-12-16 03:51 am (UTC)(link)
See, I would think that some people would prefer the complete ignoring. You pointed out yourself that Chanukah is essentially a separatist holiday: you are celebrating not being part of the dominant culture. If I celebrated a festival of that sort, and the dominant culture tried to take part in it, I might feel that they were intruding on my domain.
silveraspen: pool of blue water with grass stem and small ripples (still waters of cerulean blue)

[personal profile] silveraspen 2007-12-16 01:59 am (UTC)(link)
Something I will never forget happened last fall. I was in a graduate class-- an anthropology-style class, for that matter -- in which there were a total of six students. Two of them were Jewish; one-third of the class.

It was a Monday night class, which met for three hours per session, and on the first day of the semester we sat down to go over the syllabus. Of course, absences in a class of this type are particularly problematic to say the least, and carry a heavy penalty. And these two students started off by comparing the syllabus of class meetings to their holiday calendar to see how much their grades might be cut to start with.

I don't recall if it was the teacher or another student who got past our overall "wait, what?" reaction to suggest it first, but what we all ended up doing was rescheduling the classes that conflicted with the holidays for another day, so that everyone could attend, after all.

But what I remember, what I will never forget, is the assumption that was made. As though it was a given, and just something they'd have to live with. That they do live with, every day.

I don't know the answer; I don't know if there IS an answer. But I figure awareness is a start, at the very least.
newredshoes: radio tower on top of the world (the league of inventive little girls)

[personal profile] newredshoes 2007-12-16 02:10 am (UTC)(link)
At least two of the three years I lived in the dorms at the University of Chicago, move-in day was during High Holy Days. At a school that self-identifies as somewhere between ten and thirty prcent Jewish.

Yeah. And I thought all that was behind me once I left my Appalachian hometown of non-college student population: 6,000.

[identity profile] 2007-12-16 03:03 am (UTC)(link)
This is interesting to read. It does make me feel a little bad, though, because I do send out holiday cards. I try to get the holiday right if I know that someone celebrates Hanukkah or Solstice, but I don't always succeed. (I do make a note of it if I get it wrong, so I can fix it for next time.) And I frequently am late - well, last year I sent them in February, so I missed pretty much all possible Decemberish holidays. This year I've missed Hanukkah for most of my cards.

But I'm sending them out to let me friends know that I'm thinking of them, not particularly because I'm affiliated with any particular holiday. Should I not send cards to my Jewish friends? I don't want people to think that they're an afterthought, because they aren't; it's my traditional yearly "Yes, I'm alive" note to people. (And prior to LJ, this was sometimes the only time people heard from me every year.) But if it's going to be upsetting to people to get holiday cards, I certainly don't want to do it.

What do you think?

[identity profile] 2007-12-16 03:40 am (UTC)(link)
Okay, that's what I've been hoping. (And, honestly, most of the Hanukkah cards I've found have really sucked - they've been getting better, but I tend to do better with less specific ones. I have a gorgeous one of a cat looking out a snowy window, done in a Japanese style, this winter.)

Realistically, with my friends, if anyone hated it they'd probably let me know. We're generally not shy and retiring. *grin*

[identity profile] 2008-12-18 02:10 am (UTC)(link)
I try my best to get blatantly winter cards, not any particular holiday -- lots of snow, maybe trees, people in it, etc. There's often a conifer in it somewhere, 'in the wild' as it were, and touches of red (so my Christian grandma won't overreact to me hating on her holiday),m but they're just artistic license.

[identity profile] 2009-12-18 05:12 am (UTC)(link)
"Merry Whatever" damned sure beats out the execrable "Christmukah"!

Seriously, Erica, I love holiday cards no matter if they get which holiday right, or are just a general greeting, and I usually (unless like this year I find a generic card that is nicer than the cards for each holiday) try to send people the card for the holiday they observe.

The main thing about holiday cards is that they say the sender was thinking of you, and that's almost always welcome in my book.
vivien: (tea)

[personal profile] vivien 2007-12-16 04:44 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for writing this. This veneration by convenience has always annoyed me as well. As a teacher, I skated around the CHRISTMAS CHRISTMAS holidays that occur in winter, including Chanukah. I mixed in science lessons with day and night and learning about opposites, and so made everything as contextual as I could.

In Oklahoma where I started teaching, and even here in Denver to some extent, positive mentions of Chanukah and dreidels might be all some kids get as far as Jewish culture goes. Which sucks a whole lot, too. I always tried my best to at least open my students' minds to understand that there were people who didn't celebrate Christmas, and that was perfectly fine.

(I have to say, playing the dreidel game is an EXCELLENT game for kids learning how to count, and The Chanukah Guest remains one of my favorite kids' books, period.)

mtgat: (The Wheel)

[personal profile] mtgat 2007-12-16 05:06 am (UTC)(link)
I've had this open for the last couple of hours, because you deserve a reasoned response. Unfortunately, I still don't have one. :/ I get the concept of "This is my holiday, and it is *not* just a cutesy quaint version of yours." But I'm also one of those annoying people who *does* think it's all about finding reasons to shine light despite the darkness, so probably not so helpful here.

*offers chocolate instead*
mtgat: (The Wheel)

[personal profile] mtgat 2007-12-17 03:17 am (UTC)(link)
Mmm. Chocolate-covered strawberries. *drools*

I just have a problem with people telling me that's what my holiday is about.

And that's totally fair. :)
skygiants: a figure in white and a figure in red stand in a courtyard in front of a looming cathedral (cour des miracles)

[personal profile] skygiants 2007-12-16 07:30 am (UTC)(link)

This was really interesting for me to read - in part because I grew up in an area that was about 50% Jewish, to varying degrees of observance. So we automatically had as many Chanukah songs as Christmas carols for the school concerts, and as much blue-and-white seen around the town as red-and-green (the local Borders puts up a menorah on the side every year, I remember, and never has Christmas decorations that I can recall) and everyone envied the kids with one parent of each religion - who made up a significant percentage of the class - because they got to celebrate both. And although I must have known it intellectually to some degree or other, I don't think I really, honestly believed that being Jewish put me in a minority as far as the rest of the country was concerned until they started giving us the Here Are Some Examples of Anti-Semitism You Might Face In Your Life lectures in Hebrew school.

Add this to the fact that my family had our own Christmas Day traditions growing up, involving ice skating and Chinese food and occasionally putting up stockings or making dinner for the foreign exchange students to make them feel more at home spending the holiday in a region where they were the odd ones out, and Christmas never really pinged as a NOT YOURS to me. But on the other hand, my family is very much one of those where it's about light and warmth and family, and - well, miracles. A Great Miracle Happened Here. Maybe that's just because we played a lot of dreidel growing up, but that's what I always think of first when Chanukah comes around.

All of which is . . . mostly just a lot of babbling about my personal experience, because it is late and I am jetlagged and waiting for the shower, so I apologize.

[identity profile] 2007-12-16 05:58 pm (UTC)(link)
This is actually something I've been thinking about, in a general way, for a week or so, in part due to this ( news article.

It's funny, because growing up--we went to seders a few years, because it was important to my parents for us to be shown different things. I have a copy of The Five Books of Miriam next to me, which I bought recently to replace one I've had since I was seventeen, and I went through it to view the first five books of the Bible from the perspective of the (or one of the) modern day incarnations of the culture it originated from.

My parents have--well, they have many friends who are Jewish, but there's one couple that lives relatively near us, who we visited several times, and they focused on the miracle of oil when the topic came up more than anything else. I vaguely remember that, but I mostly remember calling the husband in that couple to figure out if my teacher at my Catholic high school was giving us an accurate portrayal of Purim (which she was not, and BOY did she not like me calling her on that. Doing it in front of the whole class may have been a bad move on my part). At the same time--she was talking about Purim. And she did give accurate portrayals of Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah, and I was required to take a class called Hebrew Bible, World, and Culture at my own college--and it was a good class, because it was not taught from the perspective of, "This is the precursor to the New Testament, look how this is predicting Christ!" but rather as a set of books unto itself. (Not a great class; there were some things that were, uh, off. But a good one.)

...I've lost my original point, a bit, in rambling, and I'm not sure getting back to it wouldn't take too long, but I will say one thing. Sorta. *grins* I'll try?

The area in TN I grew up in is one of the more liberal/diverse ones. It's also still very heavily Protestant, and especially nondenominational evangelical Bible-Thumper Protestant. And I remember going to Mass on Ash Wednesday, before I transferred to Catholic school, and the teacher telling me repeatedly I has something on my face I should go wash off. And no matter how many times I said, "I know, I don't want to," she kept insisting I do so.

You're not supposed to do that with the ashes. It stays on till it wears off in the course of the day. I mean, you can get your shower as usual, but you really shouldn't go directly wash that off.

I remember that, and I remember seeing the rubble where some asshats blew up the statue of the Virgin Mary we had on our church grounds, and I remember going to my Catholic high school for the first time and seeing how someone had taken a chain saw and hacked off the fingers on her right hand. And they were just a few incidents, but the feeling of Not Belonging Here and Not Being Understood and in fact Not Liked was very strong--the last more for the damage to the statues than a teacher pestering me about washing my face. But I hated it, and I can't being to imagine what it must feel like to feel in similar, if not near the same, ways with the entire culture shoving in your face one way or another that You Are Different. And I'm sorry, as little as it is, that the world is so messed up it works that way. For anyone.

[identity profile] 2007-12-16 08:22 pm (UTC)(link)
I grew up with both traditions being in my household. If Hannukah and Christmas happened to coincide, we'd light the menorah and then decorate the tree. It was just what happened, and I didn't think it all that odd as a kid.

Now that I'm an adult, I get annoyed by the pervasive Christmasy stuff, but I'm trying hard to not let it bother me too much. It is a huge display of "not yours", but I actively choose to make Christmas not mine any longer years ago. To explain, I always considered myself Jewish, but I also felt that the Christian holidays that Dad celebrated with us were mine too. I stopped looking at it that way about 10 years ago. That choice means I have to accept the consequences as well as the rewards. The people who matter to me who aren't Jewish (read: my father) try to remember when there are Jewish holidays coming up, and wish me well. The rest of the world can do what it wants.

Last thing, you should take a look at _The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming_, but Lemony Snicket if you get a chance. It's *really* funny, and addresses dealing with everyone assuming that your holiday is the same as theirs.

[identity profile] 2007-12-16 08:25 pm (UTC)(link)
Pardon, the correct title of the book I mentioned is _The Latke Who Couldn't Stop Screaming: A Christmas Story_.

[identity profile] 2008-12-18 02:13 am (UTC)(link)
I love that book.

This year's Lemony Snicket special, title something about a "Lump of Coal", is also good.

[identity profile] 2007-12-17 04:19 am (UTC)(link)
Thank you for unlocking this. It's interesting and very thinky-inducing.

I'm slowly unpacking what defensiveness I, as a practicing Christian, have about Christmas.

I don't find that I feel defensive about the religious aspects at all. I go to church, where nobody who doesn't want to hear about Jesus is likely to be. As far as public life I'd prefer to live by the Word than preach it, so I'm mostly inoffensive in that regard, I think. :)

The whole greeting thing - I just smile at people a whole lot in December. If they wish me a Happy Anything I say "thanks, you too."

A little sad, occasionally, that I'm the only person in my immediate family for whom Christmas IS a religious holiday, but, you know, I am Yule friendly. We make it work.

(I'm fundamentally Hanukkah friendly too, but it's not the sort of thing that people invite their Christian friends to, you know?)

I'm very defensive of having lots of pine trees around and hanging lights on everything. I justify this by saying that I live in Ottawa where it gets dark at 4pm in December and is miserably cold and we NEED many coloured lights, but maybe I am kidding myself.

The thing I think I find the hardest not to be defensive of is that I have a sort of fear of ... social blankness, if that makes any sense. I tend to be radical in my politics and traditional in my tastes, you know?

And basically, the older a Western tradition is the more likely it is to be indefensible on some level or another. Which sucks, really; it would be great beyond words if we had traditions that didn't have that legacy, but we don't, really. And that feels insoluble to me, because I'm very wary of saying "well, let's throw it all out then."

(Another aspect of my defensiveness, actually, though I don't know how widespread this is, comes from dealing not with people of other faiths but from people who culturally were raised Christian, who aren't now, who a) loathe Christmas with the heat of a million suns, b) can't leave the topic alone, and c) assume that I am one of them. Especially as d) despite that they're the ones who are most prone to go on about the materialism, commercialisation, and meaninglessness of Christmas, they're the people least likely to be gracious if you happen to give them a present that doesn't quite suit them. This is relevant only in that I often suspect that quite a lot of the tension around this gets exported unconsciously into the ongoing debate about cultural sensitivity.)
Edited 2007-12-17 04:22 (UTC)

[identity profile] 2007-12-17 09:37 am (UTC)(link)
I've looked at this post a few times in the past few days and kept trying to put my thoughts on this in some order.

I liked leaving work and seeing that the menorah on the roof of the bank is lit, walking down the street and seeing the light on the Knesset menorah and then seeing light in many windows as I walked home. Its nice to have a national candle lighting ceremony on tv and sufganiot and latkes on sale at every bakery.

But I wonder if it doesn't end up being overly trivialized here as a minor holiday, one in which kids are off school and people light candles, sing in the evenings and sometimes even give presents (not pervasive here, thankfully). Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Pesach, Shavuot - those are the *real* holidays.

Of course my perspective is different anyway, being here. I remember my cousins told us a funny story: Not long after they moved to Israel, they were woke up early one morning, around 6am, and turning on the radio, heard the announcer say "Shmah Yisrael...". They said they thought something terrible must be happening for someone to be saying Shmah on the radio.
Its on every morning.

[identity profile] 2009-12-18 05:17 am (UTC)(link)
Hmm, Batya, could you possibly post an entry with the holidays in order of their importance. As an assimilated Jew, I was taught that the biggies are Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Pesach, but I am a little clueless as to which of the others lie where on the importance scale.

If you can, thanks, if not, no biggie...we can discuss it one day, perhaps.

[identity profile] 2007-12-18 03:37 am (UTC)(link)
Well said, Batya. Christmas is so pervasive, that it's in my family too, for, as you know, my in-laws are not Jewish. And even they, with the best intentions, wish us a Happy Chanukah long after it's over. And it's with their best intentions, that they completely and lovingly include my children in their Christmas celebration.

I'm at peace with it, just as I'm at peace with the fact that the Happy Sukkot and Happy Shavuot are often missed. They don't mean harm or ignorance, and in fact, I need to give them more credit than I do. They try to remember the weird holidays that we have, despite how many of them there are and how they move around the calendar.

So what does it mean to us? It means that I have to make an extra effort to explain the meaning of the holidays - BOTH holidays - to my children. It also means that I do my best to make Charlie understand why it is that we are Jewish and why, although we may appreciate and help others celebrate Christian holidays, Christian holidays are not for us. It helps that he goes to a Jewish day school, but he won't forever.

It means that I make a point to take the menorahs down when Chanukah is over, even if that also means that our home is the dark one amidst a sea of lit houses.

But it doesn't mean that we have to exclude ourselves from the joy of others, especially with those who, more than anything in the world, want to share it with us. It means that I am grateful when my mother-in-law refrains from using the Chanukah wrapping paper under her Christmas tree. It means that although I am separate from Christmas, I can acknowledge it in peace and appreciate its beauty.

Charlie may ask for Christmas lights, but the lesson of taking down the Chanukah lamp when it's time is the sweet one. Maybe our battle against assimilation has been won if he understands that Christmas is the other, even if my mother in law celebrates Christmas and invites us and our children to the celebration. It's a beautiful thing, after all, to remember how good it is for all of us to dwell together in peace.

And filling Christmas stockings for them is darn good fun. This year we got them LED flashlight keychains in the shapes of animals. With sound effects.

Maybe one year they'll come to our seder.

[identity profile] 2007-12-19 02:58 am (UTC)(link)
Did I ever tell you about the time I convinced my not-very-smart bosses that to have proper religious diversity they needed to have a Festivus pole?

I almost brought them that table leg I have ...

[identity profile] 2009-12-18 05:18 am (UTC)(link)
Oh, that would have been so cool!

[identity profile] 2007-12-22 04:36 am (UTC)(link)
Just musing.

What annoys me about the month of Christmas isn't that it's not my holdiay, but that there's this unrelenting barrage of noise and images I want to shut out. Not all of it -- just the Really Bad music some restaurants play, and the insistence on rushing the year. At least I didn't see Christmas stuff until -after- Halloween.

My folks have an electric menorah. Mom loved it because there's no messy wax. She even got a plug in yartzheit candle after one kind of, um, exploded. Well, the glass did -- the wax was running up the sides, and the flame melted it and the glass, and . It took me a while before my brain said, "Wait! Electric menorah on Hanukah? What is wrong with this picture?"

I went to the office holiday party, where my assistant had originally threatened to make me sing karaoke, and "Danny Boy" at that. She organizes the party.

My assistant is my right hand. There are things I would do only for her. I decided that if she insisted, I could [ profile] daftnewt's advice and go really loud and high.

She didn't ask me to sing. Instead, she organized us into teams to dress up someone as Santa in red crepe paper. She was on our team, because this was by department, and she instructed us to pick the shortest person to be Santa. This, of course, was me.

I had two thoughts. One was that I really did have religious grounds to object to this one, both by birth religion and by the religion of choice and the heart. If I'd objected, it would have been for birth religion reasons -- tribal solidarity, a matter of honor, you know?

But, my second thought was that, year after year, I have participated without any qualms in all of the stuff I found pleasurable. I've eaten the food at the parties, which I know quite well is not kosher. I've participated in grab bag and secret santa present exchange. I've accepted presents and holiday cards. For me -- not for an actually observant Jew, but for me -- citing religious objections would have been hypocritical. One pays one's debts, also a matter of honor, I guess. (And ye ghods and little fishes, it was much preferable for me than trying to sing karaoke to some song I didn't know with music blaring loudly enough to give me a headache.)

I'd probably have had a problem if she were telling me to let folks dress me up as Christ or the Virgin Mary. Again, this would be on tribal solidarity / religious grounds. Santa just doesn't cross the same line in my mind.

The office manager asked me about when Hanukah started so she could figure out how many lights on the electric menorah to turn on. Naturally, I had to look it up. I'm not sure if she asked me because I'm Jewish or because I'm the head of the Research Department, but I did appreciate the menorah. It isn't that Hanukah is Christmas. My eyes appreciated the break in Christian imagery, and I liked that she was trying.

Ever see the play -- not the movie -- Children of a Lesser God? The deaf woman is utterly scornful of folks who learn how to sign "How are you? I am fine." It's as if they think they're making a Grand Gesture, and that somehow, she's obligated to be grateful.

Or at least, most of the time, that's correct. There's one woman who does it later in the play. After the deaf woman makes it clear that she's unimpressed, the other woman says to the male lead, "Well, even they had to start somewhere." And, for her, it isn't being condescending. It is starting somewhere, a step on the path.

The problem is that the gesture looks exactly the same. (Well, the deaf woman also has a chip on her shoulder the size of a small mountain, but that's another story.) And 9 times out of 10, the cynical interpretation is correct.

[identity profile] 2008-01-15 01:11 am (UTC)(link)
And I guess for those to whom the holiday is just about light and warmth and family and song, there really isn't any significant difference between them

For me, there really is not. Which is not to say I don't understand why there is for others, most others, the others whose holidays these properly are. Just that those aren't the parts of either holiday that I've ever partaken of, or think I ever likely could.

(And hence why I get the everything is not yours feeling, in spite of having merrily celebrated FoodPresentsTreeFamilyMas all my life, and possessing a wrought-iron menorah that could pass for a weapon in Clue. The biggest similarity for me about these two holidays, the one that dwarfs all the real and significant differences, is "practically everybody on this planet believes in God and miracles except for me.")
ext_27060: Sumer is icomen in; llude sing cucu! (Default)

I need to put a Judaism icon back into the rotation, don't I?

[identity profile] 2008-12-18 01:05 am (UTC)(link)
I didn't reply to this post last year, which leads me to believe I must have missed it somehow. Because I would have commented, if only to say WORD.
maellenkleth: (glass-flower)

Re: I need to put a Judaism icon back into the rotation, don't I?

[personal profile] maellenkleth 2008-12-25 02:40 am (UTC)(link)
thank you for this post, found via a friend of a friend