Welcome to my favorite time of year…
No disrespect to all those people out there who love summer and going to the beach, but nothing compares to the holidays. Growing up in New York City, I’ve always loved walking on Fifth Avenue and seeing people, all bundled up, walking around with their packages, and all the beautiful window displays. Then of course, there are all the people ice-skating at Rockefeller Center below the giant Christmas tree. And who can forget all the lights, fun Christmas songs and my personal favorite, Stella D’oro Holiday Trinket Cookies. It’s all so magical to me… and I’m Jewish.
But even with all that, the thing I love most about this time of year is the notion of peace on Earth and good will towards man. I know it is naïve to actually believe that the world could all of a sudden become a better place just in time for the holidays, but one can dream, can’t they? Unfortunately, when it comes to the holidays, some people would rather argue about them more than anything else, making the idea of peace and harmony in this world seem impossible.
As a Jew around this time of year, I get the “pleasure” of reading some interesting things about people of my, and other faiths, that don’t celebrate Christmas. For example, before Halloween, a friend of mine was complaining on Facebook that her daughter’s class was working on their holiday project, and her daughter got in trouble for having a snowman. My initial reaction was why on earth were they working on holiday projects in October. Shortly after, the conversation turned sour as another person commented Fuuuuuuuuuuck politically correct... I'm sick and tired of this bullshit.. I'm offended that we have so many pussies in this country. To my surprise, several people agreed with that sentiment. Of course, I didn’t. Then again, I fall into the group of “pussies.”
Unfortunately, this is not a new conversation. For years, I have heard people bitch about the fact that public schools don’t focus on Christmas anymore, and blame that on Jews, Muslims and whomever else does not observe the birth of Christ. I’ve also heard people bitch about saying “Happy Holiday” as opposed to “Merry Christmas.” The sentiment is usually something like people just want to find something to be offended by. Being that we live in a country that allows us the freedom to speak our minds, those people are entitled to their opinions. Then again, so am I… So where should I even begin?
Being that the people who are lodging these complaints live in this country, I’m sure I don’t have to remind anyone that the United States is a country that believes in the freedom of religion. In fact, America has no official religion, as it goes against the first amendment to the Constitution, which states Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion. In other words, we have this thing in our great country called separation of church and state. I’m sure you’ve heard of it?
With that said, public schools tend to receive state funding, and therefor cannot force any one religion on any of their students. Case in point, the removal of mandatory prayers in school by the Supreme Court in the 1960s. In their ruling, the Supreme Court said that forcing children to pray, especially if it was against their religious beliefs, goes against the Constitution, and in essence, the backbone of what this great country was built on.
Now how does this effect holiday displays in schools? Well, unless it’s a Nativity scene, it actually doesn’t. Now, if all these people who bitch about the “War on Christmas” really paid attention, nobody ever complained about the presence of trees in school, as Christmas trees have no religious connotation to them. What actually happened was schools, especially state-funded public schools, were asked to be more inclusive of all the children and staff that celebrated something other than Christmas. And being that there are actually, on average, TWENTY-NINE (yes, you read that correctly) holidays between November 1st and January 15th, and schools didn’t necessarily have the time or funding to focus on every holiday, some (not all) decided to remove all holiday displays. Instead, they now focus on winter, which every single person deals with, regardless of their faith. In fact, the break at the end of December is known as “Winter Recess,” not “Christmas Break.” It’s along the same lines as if you don’t have enough snacks for the whole class, then you can’t share with only a few concept.
Getting back to my friends daughter’s school holiday project, unless her snowman had a Santa hat on it, I’m pretty sure the teacher just made an error, which isn’t a big deal. But my initial thought was never touched on… why are they working on anything holiday related IN OCTOBER??? No offense, but aren’t there more important things to be learning in October, or for that matter, any other time of the year? Why isn’t anyone up in arms about that? If there’s anything to really be upset about, maybe it should be that your tax dollars were being wasted, instead of focusing on a snowman? Just saying!!!
I’d also like to point out to all the families who really are that concerned about their children not being taught about Christmas, or their school having a Christmas display, that you have options. May I suggest looking into a Parochial School? Or actually being the parent, and perhaps teaching them yourselves about your family’s personal religious beliefs, instead of imposing your beliefs on everyone else? Religion is something you as an individual believe in, not something everyone else should believe in because you do. Or were you never taught that?
As I’m sure you all know by reading any of my previous blogs, I went to Yeshiva my whole life. Believe it or not, I learned about Christmas, IN YESHIVA. Let’s see what I can remember. In Jewish History, we learned about Jesus and the origins of Christianity. I’m sure I don’t have to remind any of you that Jesus himself was born and died a Jew, and therefor actually celebrated Hanukah. I’m also sure you are aware that Jesus was actually not born December 25th. That date was chosen by the Romans in the 300’s, to correspond with their Winter Solstice, as well as the Pagan festival in honor of the sun god, Sol Invictus. Interesting, huh?
But wait… there’s more. In American History, we learned about the history of Christmas in America. Did you know that until the mid 1800’s, Christmas was actually seen as unchristian, and it only became a national holiday in the United States in 1870? It, along with Easter, is the only federal holiday with a religious background to it. Now isn’t it interesting that in a private Hebrew school, we are taught about religions other than our own, and yet in public, state-funded schools, people are bitching about their holiday not being the primary one? Selfish much?
Maybe it’s time for people to realize that we “pussies” don’t really care that public schools acknowledge Christmas. Nor do we care about the fact that Christmas being a federal holiday actually goes against everything that this country was founded on. Nor do we care about there being a giant Christmas tree in the middle of Rockefeller Center. We are inundated with Christmas windows, decorations, advertising and music, and that’s not going to change anytime soon. Maybe it’s less about observing Christmas as it is acknowledging that there are actually TWENTY-EIGHT other holidays going on around the same time. Not to mention people who are Atheist, and do not actually celebrate any religious holidays. It’s less about “pussies” being offended, and more about being respectful of others, as it simply is the right thing to do.
The same applies to the term “Happy Holiday.” It’s not meant to make Christmas any less important, but instead, it acknowledges that not everyone celebrates Christmas, especially when you don’t know what that person observes. If you know that somebody celebrates something specific, then by all means, greet that person accordingly. But saying “Happy Holiday” actually takes the guessing game out of offering a season’s greeting. Again, it’s just a matter of respect for others, and isn’t the Golden Rule to do unto others as you would have them do unto you? If I remember correctly, that rule is actually attributed to Jesus, right? You know, that JEWISH man that these same people not wanting to say “Happy Holiday” are celebrating the birth of.
Before I wrap this up, I would just like to play Devil’s Advocate, if I may. For those who have a problem saying “Happy Holiday,” let me ask you this: how would you feel if public schools only put up Hanukah or Kwanzaa displays? And all you saw on TV were commercials for Hanukah or Kwanzaa? And the only music played from the beginning of November until New Years was for Hanukah or Kwanzaa? And all the lights and decorations were Hanukah or Kwanzaa themed? And even though people knew you observed Christmas, they only wished you a “Happy Hanukah” or “Happy Kwanzaa?” How would you respond if the roles were reversed? Would you be fine with Christmas not being acknowledged, or would you open your mouths and bitch about it? In essence, I guess I’m wondering whether or not you would be a “pussy.”
And on that note, it’s time for me to close this down. My intent was (and still is) not to have a pissing contest, or to put any specific religion on blast. For me, it’s about the fact that we are all supposed to be equal, and we all deserve equal acknowledgement, regardless of what we believe in. There’s no “War on Christmas” for me. As I said earlier, I love Christmastime, and what it’s supposed to really represent… peace on earth and goodwill towards man. You know, I was always told that Christmas is not just a day, but it’s a feeling that people who observe should believe everyday of their lives. Imagine how amazing and different this world would be if that idea was actually practiced.
With that said, I wanted to end this by wishing everyone, no matter what your personal beliefs are, a VERY HAPPY HOLIDAY SEASON from me and my family to yours.