There was such hoopla this year with the advent of Thanksgivikkah or Chanksgiving, as we called it. It was a new Faceoff of cultures. It was a welcome break from the usual Christmas versus Chanukkah title match. So instead of dealing with the Tree versus Menorah we were left with Chalikah or Menurkey.
But now that all of that is behind us we are left dealing with Christmas empty handed. So instead of arguing for the cultural supremacy I am left just enjoying or enduring Christmas on its own terms. So what do were get out of this holiday?
While I am strangely aware that I am not in the dominant culture, I am also appreciative of the values of the larger culture. So at first blush we have the prevalence of holiday song, great lights, good sales, and a deeply branded color array. While it not our holiday, it is a nice festive contrast to the depth of winter. I could do without the hyper-materialism, You can hear echoes of Purim in our Mishloach Manot. Community is being formed in the elaborate network of gift giving. And even beyond the gifts there is the larger narrative of generosity.
One other aspect that I enjoy about Christmas is the most overtly pagan in origin Santa Claus. What woud this season be like without the myth of Saint Nicholas, Father Christmas, or Kris Kringle . Derived from the Dutch figure of Sinterklaas, Santa Claus is generally depicted as a portly, joyous, white-bearded man wearing a red coat with white collar and cuffs, white-cuffed red trousers, and black leather belt and boots and who carries a bag full of gifts for children in his magical reindeer propelled flying sleigh. Santa Claus has been believed to make a list of children throughout the world, categorizing them according to their behavior. Have they been “naughty” or “nice”? On this merit the children get their yearly gifts. While I realize that it just creates a larger mythology for a deeper materialism, it is nice to educate our children to an idea of merit. This in itself is lost in the comparison to Channukah and its miracles. Maybe a more appropriate comparison is Rosh HaShanah, our day of Judgment. On Rosh Hashanah God “‘opens’ the ‘books’ of judgment” of creation and all mankind starting from each individual person, and in those books it is first “written” what will be decreed, read here naughty or nice.
I realize what I admire in Christmas I love about Jewish camp. There is value in being part of a community that intentionally tries to bring light to darkness and cheer to those who need our generosity. There is power and responsibility of living in the dominant culture ( if only a part of the year). It is just wonderful realizing that your families private values has a place in public and is normative. So we cannot forget the gift of Jewish Summer camp. Have a Gmar Tov– a great end of the year.