Sunday, December 25, 2005

Thoughts on Christmas, Chanukah, and More

I don't remember when I first became uncomfortable with saying Merry Christmas to strangers. It seems it was long before I knew anyone who was Jewish...probably in high school, when I was working very hard at figuring out my personal spiritual identity. I get angry now at people who scream how wrong it is to say Happy Holidays instead, because it's a Christian holiday. I say it's common courtesy to acknowledge that you may not celebrate a Christian holiday, but I want you to be happy regardless.

I said something about Kwaanza and Africa lately, and a friend educated me a bit about Kwaanza and it being an American holiday that began in the 60s. She called it a made-up holiday. I laughed and said all holidays are made-up holidays. I think I offended her, because she distinguished between made-up and religious. I don't think religion makes a holiday any less made-up. It's just human beings deciding something is worth celebrating. Religion may make a holiday more important to someone who practices that religion, of course.

My favorite part of The Holidays, that time between Thanksgiving and January 2 and everything that's celebrated in between, is the focus everyone has on tradition. No matter what we celebrate and why, there are certain aspects of that celebration that resonate in each of us. Some decry the commercialism and crassness that accompanies it, but I don't have a problem with it. The fact is, the majority of us "buy into" such things out of love. Trampling people at 4:00 a.m. at Target may contradict the impulse, of course, but the reason we do it is because we know how excited our 80-year-old grandmother will be to get that cheap, multi-region DVD player for Christmas. And we want to give that excitement to her because we love her.

And it's not all trampling at Target, either. I couldn't believe the shoppers in Toys R Us on December 16. I swear they were pumping happy gas through the ventilation system. I usually hate crowds becuase you step back to let a couple of people by, and a hundred stream through, ignoring the fact that you're waiting patiently to take your turn, and in the meantime someone behind you decides they're more important than any of you and shoves past. There was NONE of that in Toys R Us. There were smiling, apologizing, considerate people down every aisle. Everyone was relaxed and calm and sweet and helpful. I don't think I've ever seen such a thing.

I bought seven copies of Serenity this year for gifts (including one for my own birthday present). A, because I want to share with all my closest friends this best of 2005 film, which was SO much better plotted, acted, and displayed than War of the Worlds. B, because even though our hopes are fading, there is still a slim chance of getting a sequel, and it all hinges on DVD sales. I also converted a customer and the cashier in line when I was buying them. They both planned to get it, and hopefully will follow up and get Firefly, too.

My kids write a letter to Santa every Christmas Eve, and he always supplies an answer. This year, they had questions for him related to the legends portrayed on Santa Claus is Coming to Town. He revealed, in his answers, that the original Rudolph died long ago, as all things do. My husband was quite sure this was a bad thing to say. My mother-in-law raised her eyebrows when they read the letter to her. My kids? Didn't even blink. Just goes to show. I don't know what, exactly, but it does.

Chanukah is, I guess, just revving up starting today, as Christmas winds down. I wish everyone of all faiths the happiest and most relaxed of whatever holiday they celebrate.

I'll close with something all of us can enjoy:

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