Monday, December 24, 2012

Do They [need to] Know it's Christmas?

Who remembers this BandAID video from 1984?*  The sentiment is fine, but nowadays even the question "Do They Know it's Christmas?" feels so so very Americentric. I can pretty well guarantee that, in Ethiopia, they do not know it's Christmas.

I say this with some authority because I am right here *in* America, smack in the middle of America in fact, in my messy American kitchen this morning, here on Christmas Eve day, and planning not one single Christmassy thing for the two kids in this as-Jewish-as-it-needs-to-be household.

No tinsel, no lights, no glitter. No racing downstairs with the dawn on Christmas morning. No lifting the plump heavy stockings down from the fireplace, or -- even better -- happily cradling them in two hands because they are too plump and heavy to keep hanging and have been thoughtfully laid on the hearth. No candles on the buffet. No traditional Norwegian foods, no songs, and certainly no tree.  None of the Christmas joys with which I was so lovingly raised.  We've chosen to partake of a different tradition.

Some would argue that it's a more tenacious tradition. Some would argue that a December Dilemma choice for Hanukkah instead of Christmas -- as opposed to "both" or "with grandparents" or "hybrid" or any of the other impressive number of holiday permutations and workarounds -- represents the choice between mellow gold versus glittering brass; deep diamond versus flashing cubic zirconia; subtle harmonies versus trumpet fanfares. OK, in fairness, I don't think my kids would say that if you dangled a sparkly tree and a pile of presents in front of them, but they had a terrific Hanukkah, spearheaded by my amazing sister who is a Village unto herself, and I am great with that.

So, no, my kids don't know it's Christmas, any more than most Ethiopians.

That said -- and before I am accused of sociopathically missing the point of BandAID's hard work and Christmas as a whole -- I don't think my kids need to know it's Christmas. Because shouldn't Christmas be every day? Peace on earth? Goodwill to men? In America, Ethiopia, and Israel too? 

I'll share a little sumthin' sumthin' I've picked up over the last few years: the Jewish faith celebrates Christmas every week. And, what's more, the Jewish people are exhorted and commanded to celebrate Christmas every day, all day.

How's that, you say? Well, every week, there is a day set aside to light candles, give thanks, eat a special meal, bring strangers into your home, give comfort to those who are alone, give charity to those in need, and live in total peace with yourself, God, and others for just one day. Every week. They call it Sabbath.

Imagine if everybody did that? All the time? Every day? Or even for one special day each year? Gee, that day would be starting to look a lot like Christmas . . . and, some Jews believe, that day would herald the arrival of God's kingdom on earth. Sounding familiar?

I am posting in haste and without much proofing because I was just now interrupted by the pittypat of little feet in pink tights and a blue sequined swimsuit cover-up. "I yam all dwessed!" she announces. "I weah this shirt two weeks evewy day!"

But if I don't get back to making a lump in my own throat on this happy day and magical night and the following holy-day, God bless us, every one. Peace on earth. Goodwill to all men.


*OK, I am probably just a little sociopathic because I can't thinking that BandAID probably raised more money for men's hair products than for the famine in Ethiopia. Check out those stylin' styles.

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