Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Joy on this most Jewish of holidays, Christmas



     Merry Christmas!
     Am I handing Donald Trump a victory by saying that? He seems to think so.
     “They didn’t want to let you say “Merry Christmas,’” he told students in Florida last Saturday.
     Trump doesn’t say who “they” are — liberals, Democrats, maybe Jews — but the villains were defeated, thanks to Trump, who crowed: “They’re all saying Merry Christmas again.”
     I sure am. Then again, I never stopped. Exactly 15 years ago I also began a column “Merry Christmas,” reacting to the Republican victory dance celebrating reelection of George W. Bush. The logic seemed to be, with power secure, it was time to dial back all this diversity nonsense.
     The genesis of the issue bears repeating. In the late 20th century, certain public institutions — schools and stores, mostly — realized at Christmas that a significant percentage of their students or customers were Jews or Muslims or other non-Christmasy sorts. Rather than hold a Christmas Concert that ignores their existence, they expanded it into a big-tent Holiday Concert.
     This is perceived as an insult by certain Christians who feel they must manifest their dominance in all things at all times. Clutching at themselves, falling to he ground, writhing and weeping and emitting defiant bleats of “Merry Christmas” has became a December tradition. Nobody cries like a bully.
     This proved a dilemma to people such as myself, who not only don’t mind saying “Merry Christmas” but kinda like it, as a Dickens-ish bit of winter cheer.
 
   I could add “and Happy Hanukkah” — the fourth night is Wednesday — but Jews don’t really expect to be included. Or maybe that’s just me. I always cringed at the token Hanukkah song jammed at the end of the Holiday Concert. “I Have a Little Dreidl.” Bleh. Not exactly “Silent Night,” is it?
     For the past few years, I worried “Merry Christmas” would be irredeemably ruined by Trump, weaponized from a jolly holiday greeting into a belligerent blast of political toxicity, half “Sieg Heil,” half “fuck you.” But that hasn’t happened. Yet.

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8 comments:

  1. Cute column today. And the obituary was icing on the cake.

    John

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  2. I get Christmas cards from Jews and, when I remember, send ones that say 'Happy Holidays.' I tried 'Happy Hanukkah' once, but got the feeling it wasn't well received. It's not really a religious holiday, celebrating as it does a military victory. A famous Rabbi, I believe, once said that as a religious celebration it can't hold a candle to Christmas.

    Although many crimes have been committed in his name over the centuries, his message is one of peace and makes the birth of Christ worth celebrating. And he was a Jew, although, as Archie bunker observed, only on his mother's side.

    Tom

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    1. Tom you and Archie are correct, Mary was Jewish. But interestingly the Gospel of Matthew Chapter One goes to the trouble of tracing Joseph's genealogy as being a descendant of Abraham and King David. Which seems as good as any qualification for raising a righteous son.

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    2. The only problem is that since Saint Augustine and the other Church Fathers invented the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception Joseph seems to have had little to do with it. In Ireland once I heard a, possibly apocryphal, anecdote about a country Priest alluding to the virgin birth in his sermon and one of his lady parishioners not buying it. "No such thing," she harrumphed, "Gabriel done it."

      Tom

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  3. Though raised through catechism in the Catholic Church , I quickly fell away in my mid teens. Exploring the Eastern tradition did not make me an adherant. Having long renounced catholicism I guess I am culturally christian. We have both a tree an a manorah in our home with be here now on the coffee table. My wife took a spin with the Baha'i and I fell in with the Buddhists of conspicuous consumption for a brief time. Over all acceptant of others I have no faith. Happy holidays to all and merry Christmas to those.

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  4. I'm guessing the Sun-Times isn't as loose and as laid back as it was forty-plus years ago, when anybody...Jew or goy...could volunteer to work on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, and get overtime for doing so, if you'd already worked a full schedule. And since those were considered holidays, you also got double time. Which meant you were getting triple time. Being Jewish, unattached, and pretty much a lonesome loser at thirty, I jumped on the opportunity.

    What it turned out to be was getting paid for getting wasted. People brought in bottles and set up a makeshift bar. Younger folks toked up on the loading docks, or just copped a buzz in an empty office. Triple time, and partying while on the clock. A great day for the Jewish, and everybody else.

    All went smoothly until the scanner reported the slum fire on Milwaukee Avenue. Then the partying stopped abruptly, and everyone sobered up in a hurry. The firefighters didn't know how to say: "Don't jump!" in Spanish. They learned, but only after thirteen people died. Then the city began mandatory language classes. Too little, too late. It's the Chicago way.

    Best Christmas joke this year: An image of a FOR LEASE sign, under which some wit had scrawled: "Navidad!" Sorry, but I just couldn't resist it. Zei gesunt, boychik.

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  5. Trump's not anti-Semitic. Why, he's the best friend the Jews ever had. He'll tell you so himself. Look at what a big fan he is of Netanyahu. Not to mention how he only wants guys in yarmulkes counting his money. What could be friendlier than that?

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  6. Great column, especially the part about Jews creating the most beloved Christmas tunes and movies. Die Hard is one of the best Christmas films. Last week, my daughter and I visited someone at a Franciscan hospital. Big nativity outside, many smaller ones inside, and Christmas trees and decorations. After awhile, my daughter asked what's up with the place, why wasn't there a Hanukkah or Kwanza display? The hospital she had just finished an internship at had displays for all, why not here? I choked down my laughter and explained that this was a very Catholic hospital, and they don't acknowledge any others. To my delight, White Christmas was playing over the sound system.

    Happy Christmas everyone!

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