Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Tis the Season, Oh, Yes It Is...

My pal Mac has an excellent post about the so-called "War!On!Christmas!" Oh, the horror, the absolute tragedy of having to wish someone "Happy Holidays." I can hardly bear to think about it.

Seriously, as someone who grew up with an outsider's perspective on Christmas, I was always kind of relieved that I didn't have to participate. It looks like a stress marathon: family tensions, financial strain, an overload of food, decorations, music, forced gaiety and goodwill.

In high school, I became friends with a girl who, by my standards, was fabulously wealthy. She and her parents and seven brothers and sisters lived in a huge house on a very prestigious street. Every room in the house was decorated for Christmas. The decorations included an antique train set that ran around the bottom of the tree, and several other heirloom items such as large dolls and vintage glass ornaments. It was just stunning, a scene right out of a Norman Rockwell painting. And the family just screamed their guts out at each other, and several of them were always drunk and/or stoned; it was just a beautiful-slash-horrifying orgy of rage and resentment.

Of course, I never had an insider's perspective, so I never experienced the best of Christmas: the warmth, traditions, generosity, etc. But it seemed to me that few of you experienced that, either.

Hannukah is a pretty minor holiday to us Jewcy folk, but here in the U.S., its status has increased over the years to become sort of a "Jewish Christmas." As children, we got a lot of practical items that masqueraded as gifts: clothing, books, etc. On one night, my grandparents gave us each a silver dollar. On one night, we got a gift, or sometimes a check,from aunts and uncles. And on one night, usually the last night, we got one "big" gift, usually a toy. (Ungrateful brat that I am, I always coveted my brothers' chemistry sets, erector sets, microscopes, etc., while I seemed to get one giant tea set after another.)

It wasn't eight days of gift-giving. It was more about the candle-lighting, the story of the Maccabees, the songs, and the food; of course, the food. The fact that the food hasn't killed us in 6,000 years should tell you something about the endurance and tenacity of the Jews.

Story of Hannukah at Holidays.net, or Judaism 101, or About.Judaism. Come on, we can't even decide how to spell it - you think I can pick just one website?

(Photo note: PROOF that we grew up with plastic-covered furniture. Oh, the shame.)

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