By Jewish Deaf Motorcycle Dad
Every year I used to start getting depressed after Thanksgiving. The kids in school would be excitedly talking about Xmas, the teachers would put up Xmas decorations, and we’d always have assemblies to watch various Xmas movies. Sure, they would toss a dreidle or menorah in with the decorations, or tell me if I didn’t want to watch the movie, I could go to the school library, but I always got a real “outside the group” feeling. This just continued on through high school, college and early in my work career. Sure, there was no one rubbing it in, but when you go to the malls and see all the candy canes, Xmas trees, etc., you still get that “everyone but me” thing going.
Then one year I went to Friday night services, on what happened to be Xmas Eve. While I wasn’t a member of the synagogue, I lived nearby and just had the urge to attend. The rabbi said something that gave me some perspective of this. He said that we shouldn’t be envious of those who made such a big deal out of Xmas, because for a vast majority of them, Xmas was their one religious holiday (leave out the secularization of the holiday for now) of the year that they celebrated, so they were packing as much of a punch into it as they could. On the other hands, Jews had holidays spread throughout the year, so the sense of being in touch with our religious side was more constant and spread out, so we didn’t need to throw everything into one day. Thinking about that for a while, it made a lot of sense to me, and did help me to feel better about the situation. I still wasn’t overly thrilled about it, but I could rationalize and accept it.
But it wasn’t until after I got married and became more observant that things really started to shift. I started out by fully observing one day of each Jewish holiday, then both days (or more for those like Passover!). And it wasn’t the superficial observance either. Instead of just not eating bread on Passover, I was watching everything I ate, talking with my kids about it, getting fully involved in the Seder. I was waving the lulav and esrog in the sukkah, fasting the full 25 hours on Yom Kippur, listening to the full Megillah twice on Purim, keeping each and every Shabbos, etc. Now that I was really giving my all to Judaism, I noticed something… I no longer had the holiday blahs at the end of December, not even a little.
Those who only celebrate Xmas have 24 hours to pack in all their feelings for the year. No wonder they start as early as they can! We have about 1300 hours of Shabbos a year (25*52), plus how many hours for all the Yom Tovs and Festivals? No contest! I’m happy they enjoy their 24 hours (plus all the “prep” time starting around Halloween), but I’ll stick with celebrating Judaism all year long.
Christmas really appears to be the only day that is outwardly celebrated by the majority of the population
and it’s definitely the only one the *media* has grabbed on to for publicity and marketing hype.
Interesting comments. I didn’t interpret JDMDad’s comment as putting down another religion at all. I can see how, for minorities growing up and living in North American culture, which is pretty much dominated by Christmas (not that there’s anything inherently wrong with that, since the majority is in fact Christian!), one’s roots provide something personal, genuine and authentic to relate to, while Christmas does not. In terms of the comparison between the Jewish holidays and the Christian ones, obviously observant Christians celebrate or honor many days in the year but JDMDad clearly referred to those who only celebrate Christmas and nothing else – they have to pack everything in that one day. For Jews and other minorities, Christmas really appears to be the only day that is outwardly celebrated by the majority of the population.
Urk — I meant Fern. Sorry, Charnie!
And in that context: http://www.bangitout.com/articles/viewarticle.php?a=2102
JDM, you were pretty clear to me, especially because you said, “Those who only celebrate Xmas…” which probably includes a pretty large percentage of people. Also, WADR Charnie, it is a mitzvah to put down certain religions, though there are good reasons not to do so. It is true that in our country, devout people tend to be “good for the Jews.”
I guess I didn’t write this up very well. I did not mean to make it sound like I was putting down another religion. I was trying to say how when I was not observant, I felt like I was missing out on something when seeing everyone else celebrating their holiday. However, now that I am more observant, and have something of my own that I am fully involved with all the time, I no longer feel feel something missing.
We should not be concerned about what other religions do or don’t do on their holidays as long as they’re not imposing on (or attacking!) us. Judaism is not superficial—because it’s the truth. The relative number of holidays is irrelevant; we’re supposed to sanctify ordinary weekdays, too.
I don’t think there is a need to put down another religion to feel good about your own. Especially since the Rabbi’s point about religious Christians isn’t accurate. Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism have many feast and fast days. That is not to mention every Sunday when devout Christians go to church and spend their day with family and friends. And even most of the more secular Christians also celebrate Easter in addition to Christmas.