December 2013, depending on your location, may mean shorter hours of daylight and snow. It may also mean finding something to do on Christmas Eve and Christmas.
For this month’s writing prompt, write about your family’s ritual on Christmas. As an example, mine is now the movies on Christmas Eve and it’s always been Chinese food on Christmas. When I was a kid, Christmas was the day my New Jersey “Y” summer camp (Nah-Jee-Wah) celebrated its reunion at a roller skating rink.
Write whatever comes to you. Feel free to share!
Christmas, for me, was a very confusing time growing up. We celebrated Hanukah in all its candle-lighting, gift-giving glory. My family was more Jewish by “tradition” and the holidays were very important. I went to school that was 85% Jewish and lived in the Jewish-populated San Fernando Valley some forty-five years ago or so. But the society was (and is) still totally a “Christian-based” one. Our choir in school sang Christmas carols (and the Dreidel Song, of course), and the streets and stores were all decked out with boughs of holly, silver bells and lights galore. In fact, my fondest memories of “Christmas” is riding down Ventura Blvd, a street lined with those bells and boughs, belting out every Christmas carol I knew. I have no idea what my parents must have thought, but I loved to sing and—well, what else would you have sung in my place?
At my school, I remember I had to sing Christmas carols in Latin and I never said the J or C word. One third-grade teacher had the class sing Rock of Ages in English and Hebrew – she was Jewish. There was lots of backlash about that.
A Jewish Christmas
My cousin’s birthday is on the 25th
when the rest of the world celebrates
thawing the coldest hearts and lighting the darkest season
I see the joy in children’s faces
also in the faces of adults, behaving
as though they had permission to act like kids
I hear the fanfare of jingle bells and songs all familiar
hubbub of hurried horns and bustling crowds at shopping malls
where business and charity registers with the ringing economy
I feel the joy with friends and neighbors. On the eve
I have decorated trees and assembled toys at others homes
fellowship with pizzelles and wine is toasted by “cheers!” and “l’chayim!”
Sometimes I receive a merry, awkward seasonal greeting
from a well intentioned associate, who just wants to know:
“Is it Hanukah or Chanukah?” (“No spelling or greeting is wrong”, I say)
But, my spirit at this time of year is never the same
as those true believers who have been saved
since kings visited a new born on that silent night so long ago
On the 25th, Chinese food and a good movie
a quiet evening of simple delights with my family
has become the typical holiday craving for my ancient tribe
While I may not have offended anyone, esp on this site, the next to last stanza offended me. Please accept this revision:
My spirit at this time of year can never be equated
to that of true believers, who devoutly worship at the pews
like three kings bearing prophesies on a silent night long ago
I really enjoyed your poem! I think I understand what you’re trying to say in that stanza. What if you simply leave out the word “true?” To me, the phrase “true believers” can imply that their belief (in Jesus, for example) is the “true” belief and that others, who do not share a belief in Jesus and those three kings, is the “wrong” one. While I affirm everyone’s right to follow their own hearts and beliefs, I try not to label any one of them as “right” or “true;” not even my own. What is right for me is just that: right for me. Does that make sense? Without the word “true” your stanza portrays to me that your level of spirituality during Chanukah doesn’t equate to Christians who feel strongly connected to their own religious beliefs during this holiday season. (Perhaps your poem might look different during the High Holy Days, when we are the ones with a strong spiritual connection to Judaism?)
Thanks for sharing your “Christmas” memories with us!
Thank you Marcia- yes, your comments make a lot of “sense.” I did not intend to imply that any specific faith was the right one. Perhaps the concept that each individual must find his or her own spiritual path- while respecting others- is a contemporary Jewish philosophy. The most “orthodox” or “fundamental” of any faith stand in disagreement. Of course, I wanted less of a dogmatic edge to my poem. And, we understand as Jews that Hanukah does not rise near the importance of Christmas to our neighbors.