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Christmas Spirit is for Everyone

We are now in the most heavily commercialized, most colorfully decorated, most intensely Xmasy part of the year where holiday music dominates the airwaves. And I love it. What’s more, I’m a Jew.

As I write this, I am getting ready to whip out my Menorah for the first night of Hanukkah, which this year happens to be Christmas’s next-door neighbor on the calendar. Many in the Jewish community do not view Hanukkah as a holiday that is central to the faith. It is the point on the Jewish calendar at which we celebrate the victory of the underdog Maccabees against the mighty Greek army and subsequent rededication of the second temple around 165 BC. Over time, its proximity to Christmas has led to a commercial transformation of the holiday — something adults seem to loathe but children long for. My family has begun to phase out the gift-giving element of Hanukkah, and it is taking some getting used to but I think I’ll be totally OK with it in a couple years.

But forget about Hanukkah for a second. Why do I need a substitute holiday to enjoy the festive spirit that lasts basically all of December and concludes on the 25 th of the month? Recently I had a chance to enjoy taking in the view of three large wreaths adorning the front of Washington DC’s Union Station that were accompanied by a beautifully decorated tree welcoming passengers into the building, and a holiday model train set that has kept me coming back since the age of five. I also enjoyed taking in the display of lights as I drove down Jefferson Road to, of all places, Friday night services at Temple Emmanuel. Something about Christmas decorations just adds that extra little ingredient that gives December more flavor than January or February. Now would that be possible without Christmas?

Here’s another reason why we all need Christmas. We have reached the point in the calendar in which the United States receives the least amount of sunlight all year. Dog days of summer? Please. I think dog days of winter is a more apt phrase. I can take a little heat, but I never enjoy eating dinner in a room where the only light comes from artificial sources. Having said that, Christmas music and decorations are a nice supplement to what is an otherwise depressing point in time, even if it is a materialistic solution to a natural problem.

And of course, Christmas is the season of giving and altruism. Granted, some probably only donate at the holidays, but I can’t complain too much.

Whether it’s giving aid to the homeless, helping fund cancer research or helping out a cause overseas, I tip my hat to you for carrying out the “Christmas spirit.” And we can also thank the holiday for providing incentive to go out and help the economy a little by spending some dough on people we care about. You put all of that together and you get a few more upbeat, inquisitive conversations with people than you might normally have. What did you get for Christmas? Did your whole family get together? And I get to answer questions like, what exactly is Hanukkah? Why do you guys eat those potato pancakes?

With all of the good I have just described about the holidays, there are also some negative parts that need to be pointed out. The first greeted me in my car on the morning of November 13, a whopping 42 days before Santa’s arrival. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll listen to “Feliz Navidad,” and “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” if it’s on a Christian rock station, but there’s a fine line between creating a festive spirit and fundamentally changing the very nature of listening to music on the radio.

This is one of those times that we all just need to take a deep breath.

I also am like many non-Christians in my desire that people greet me with “happy holidays,” instead of “merry Christmas.” I have made a habit of this myself. There used to be an urge in me to correct people, but at some point I realized it wasn’t worth correcting every store clerk I interacted with. Yet, I still think at some point it would be nice to see a slight attitude shift toward the holidays. Many people in my generation are moving away from religion altogether as it is. We will become a minoritymajority nation in 2042, and while Christianity will still dominate, we ought to acknowledge our religious diversity as well. “Happy Holidays,” does just that.

Because for me and plenty of other non-Christians, the holidays are a happy time. Regardless of what you celebrate, or don’t celebrate. !

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