Religion & Beliefs
Put the Christ Back in Christmas?
I can't believe I'm about to say this, but I, Amy Guth, a Jewish woman, kind of support the keep-the-Christ-in-Christmas bullshit. I think. Wait, no. I don't. No, I do. Sort of. Oy. Anyway, some other Jews and a few … Read More
Anyway, some other Jews and a few Muslims are with me on this. For them, it's about keeping religion in the public sphere—rather than banning Santa, they want to see their local mall decorate for Christmas and Eid and Rosh HaShanah. For me, it's more because year after year, I see parking lots fill up, I see people quite literally freaking out as they shop, I see people feeling crabby and shitty and taking off of work to finish their shopping. I see stores open as early as 4 AN=M (!) so frantic shoppers can get their massive shopping finished. I read statistics about a family of four spending an average of $1,800/year (and climbing) on the holiday each year.
And it's kind of gross to me. I'm not a Christian, so although it's not my problem, I do feel obligated as a human being to at least consider the things I see pushing people to their emotional limits year after year. Especially when two fighting shoppers nearly hit me in the face with the last Barbie doll in Target.
So, despite my tendency to react to fundamentalist evangelist types with "Oy, what a short-sighted, narrow-minded thing to say!" I think the KTCIC campaign might be not the worst idea.
First, it could cut down on materialism, crabbiness and hyper-consumerism by refocusing the celebration on its origin. Gifts are great, but do they have to be so excessive and huge? Maybe focus on family time, the pretty winter scenery, the sparkly decorations, the meals, the parties, etc.
Secondly—and this one would be bound to cause a huge stir if I walked around saying it to Christmas-celebrators—secondly, if it was focused on the person Christmas is actually about, the people celebrating Christmas would actually be Christians. The secularists would maybe make their own thing: Winter Solstice or something along these lines. If you like celebrating Christmas because you enjoy the sparkly lights and winter stuff, you should celebrate the crap out of lights and winter.
But then, I have a Christmas-observing friend who considers Jesus a mere metaphor, a representation of the lives of different Pharisees, and so celebrates this metaphor as a reminder of living peacefully, but doesn't feel like there's any dude behind any of it, or that there is any reason to call anyone a savior. Just like I know Jews who don't feel terribly connected to the Torah, but observe Pesach as a metaphor for freedom from metaphorical slavery to various things and people. It's somewhat largely about semantics, sure, and semantics that don't apply to me at all (in the case of Christmas), but again, when you nearly get clobbered by a Barbie-as-weapon, you can't help but feel inclined to at least riff on it.
I've been asking fellow Jews what they think about all of this, and I'm really surprised that it's elicitedsuch strong opinions—not even healthy banter, but full-on "I'm so glad you asked because…" monologues.
So here's the can of worms: Do I, do you, think it is OK to secularly celebrate any holiday with religious origin? Sort of. Maybe. Not really. Sort of. (I don't mean for secular Jews to celebrate a secular Christmas, that's a whole other issue. I mean secular Jews celebrating religious Jewish holidays secularly, secular Christians celebrating Christian holidays secularly, etc.) Maybe what I'm really driving at is that we could all use a little dose of the "if you're going to do it, mean it" as applied to a lot of things…?
But then the thought of a public school or the White House filled with religious Christmas decor like a manger or whatnot makes me itchy. I'd be uncomfortable if my kids were going to school with a manger up in their grills. And then we sort of branch off into the Merry Christmas v. Happy Holidays issue in retail (I have an upcoming post on that later—hold tight.) This whole thing a complex issue, one that certainly isn't black and white, but one that even as a Chanukah-celebrator, I can't help but consider and discuss with other non-Christmas celebrators, since we're all at risk of getting hit in the face by a Barbie doll. Discuss.
(Please note: This post was written pre-Shabbes. An unfortunate area blackout of internet access prevented it from being posted.)