First off, I should tell you that I’m Jewish – not particularly observant, but very traditional. I enjoy Passover, eating matzo for a week; I light Chanukah candles, go to synagogue and pray for forgiveness on the high holidays etc.
However, I live in Canada and everywhere I’m reminded of Christmas, and I actually get into the “Christmas spirit.” I sing along with all the songs on the radio. Yesterday, I couldn’t get the song I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas out of my head and I walked around humming it all day, (now it’s stuck in my head again).
As a matter of fact, I am the daughter of two holocaust survivors. My family moved to Toronto when I was a small child and my parents were barely able to make ends meet. My mother worked as a seamstress in a factory and had nowhere to put me while she was at work. The closest daycare was in a nearby church. The nuns were my teachers and prayer was very much a part of our every day routine. My mother told me that when kneel to pray, I should only do it on one knee and it wouldn’t count. I remember one evening, when my parents had their friends over for a game of cards, I came into the room to show off all what I had learned at school and I crossed myself. After that night, I never had to go back to that school.
Sorry, I got off topic.
So, last night, Christmas eve, after doing the traditional movie and Chinese restaurant thing, my husband and I and a couple of friends drove around enjoying the beautifully decorated homes, with spectacular Christmas lights. We peered into the windows to see the fully lit Christmas trees centered in the windows, many homes had a fire burning and the scenes exuded warmth and spirit – which is actually a little ironic because we’re just recovering from an ice storm where over 300,000 homes were without power, and many still are.
We even have a family gift exchange at this time of year, some Jews would say it’s related to Chanukah, but they can’t say that this year because Chanukah was a month ago. I think any opportunity to get together with friends and family and enjoy gift giving, fun, laughter, good food and drink is fine with me.
Of course the religious part of Christmas has no part in my life, as Jews don’t believe that Jesus was the Son of God, nor that he is the Messiah. We acknowledge that Jesus existed, in fact he was Jewish. Does that mean I can’t wish my Christian friends a Merry Christmas? What about the girl at the supermarket, who was so busy yesterday servicing people replenishing from the power outage as well as people stocking up for Christmas, who wished me a Merry Christmas and I wished her one right back? We were both Jewish and we knew it, yet we wished each other a Merry Christmas because we live in Canada, a multi-cultural country, and neither of us were afraid to offend or embarrass each other.
I say embrace any opportunity to make people feel good. Don’t correct someone wishing you a Merry Christmas if you don’t celebrate, just say thank you and wish them a Merry Christmas right back.
It’s a good thing – really.