One of the most noticeable aspects of being in Israel is how the Jewish calendar dominates, as well it should. Signs on buses offer good wishes for the holidays in September, bakeries sprout Chanukah delicacies in the winter, and school and government calendars are built around Jewish festival days.
Growing up in America, in my Italian-Catholic and Jewish neighborhood, come December, Christmas was the dominant feeling in the air. Whether it was the music in the supermarkets or on the radio, the brightly lit houses on my street, or the special Christmas cookies in the market (which, happily for us kids, were frequently kosher), it was impossible not to know what the season was.
It may not have been my holiday, but it was lovely.
As I recall it, things started changing in the 1970s, when those shouting about the “energy crisis” attempted to turn lighting up your house into a statement of selfishness rather than celebration. I can think of other factors that, over the next few decades, minimized Christmas Day. The devaluing of religion in general and households headed by single parents with less focus on building family traditions (especially ones that, even in our politically correct world, favor men as ones who are more comfortable with stringing electric wires high above the ground), are two that leap to mind. While our Founding Fathers, those men who meticulously saw freedom of religion as an imperative, declared Christmas as a Federal holiday, since then, confusion, lack of education, and outright hostility about the United States’ religious heritage transformed ‘Merry Christmas’ into ‘Happy Holidays’ and then subsequently into, “I’m safer not saying anything.”
This year, the government response to COVID has struck another blow. Is this scientifically, politically, economically, or culturally driven? Most likely, all of the above are correct. This lays the onus on those of you to whom the day is a sacred, religious observance to ensure that in your homes, even if the gatherings are smaller, the practices of the day shine brightly.
Wishing you a merry Christmas,