Jason Brooks recently posed a question. What are we supposed to call the season that is upcoming, or, to judge from the decorations in the stores, has been here since July?
Never one to miss a challenge, I’m going to attempt to definitively answer the question once and for all. If you are talking about Christmas, that is, the holiday that occurs on December 25th each year, you should call it Christmas. Likewise, without debating the origin, whether pagan or traditional or whatever, things associated with Christmas, such as decorated trees, Rudolph and his reindeer friends, and Santa Claus are Christmas decorations. The word is simply accurate and descriptive.
A little bit of disclosure to explain my perspective here: I am Jewish. Phrased a different way, I am not Christian. This means that Christmas is not my holiday. I don’t put up a tree, I don’t decorate my house, I don’t worry about anyone falling off the roof trying to put up lights, and I don’t have a family dinner or go to church to commemorate the birth of Christ. (I do, however, usually go out for Chinese food with other Jews as is Our Tradition. Sometimes we go to the movies. There is nothing else to do on December 24 and 25 and no one else will play with us.) Christmas, aside from the ubiquitous, in-your-face-everywhere nature of it here in the Deep South, is to me what Yom Kippour or Tisha B’av is to a non-Jew.
So I suppose the question isn’t what we call the day itself, or the things obviously associated with the holiday, but what we call the period of time of general festiveness that occurs this time of year without, well, without offending people like me. The answer really depends upon the context, but more often than not “Christmas” is the answer. For example, this year, Chanukkah begins the evening BEFORE Thanksgiving. Chanukkah, by the way, is an extremely minor holiday on the Jewish calendar: it only gets a lot of press as a sort of PR counter to Christmas to make Jewish kids feel included in the season — imagine how you’d feel at the age of, say 8, when everyone was getting ready for a big birthday party you weren’t invited to. You’d feel pretty darned left out. This year, Chanukkah will all be over before the first week in December is over. From that point forward, it would simply be inaccurate to include any Jewish holidays in naming the season. Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, it is still the Christmas season. Just like Ramadan occurs whether or not it has any religious significance to me.
Likewise, when you wish me a Merry Christmas, I take it in the spirit in which it is intended. I’m not anti-Christmas, nor is any Jew I know. I once got my kids’ picture taken with Santa at Wal-Mart, and this confused the heck out of a friend of mine – born and raised in Grayson — who claims that I am the first non-Christian she’s ever met. It made more sense to her when I explained that I would take a free picture of my kids from anyone. Besides, Christmas, December 25, happens no matter what I celebrate, and I want that day, like all days, to be merry. I appreciate people who want me to be merry. I’m all about merriness as a general proposition. But I’ll tell you something else — it means an awful lot to me if you don’t make assumptions about me and my family and what we might or might not be doing in December. It can be an awkward thing when strangers in grocery stores — absolutely in the spirit of friendliness and Good Will Towards Men — ask my young children if they are ready for Santa to come. Once, when my daughter was about four, we went to a Cub Scout dinner thingie during this (wait for it) Christmas Season with my son. Santa was there, and all the kids who sat on his lap got a present. My daughter was not going to pass up the opportunity for a present, and so she sat on his lap. When he asked her what she wanted for Christmas, she explained to Santa that she didn’t want anything for Christmas, as she was Jewish, but she did want a dollhouse for Chanukkah. Santa gave her a wrapped package. She came up to me and unwrapped it. She shook it in my face and said. “Chapstick? I told Santa I wanted a dollhouse and he gave me Chapstick!” At that point she decided the whole Santa thing was ridiculous and regularly brags to her friends that talk incessantly about Christmas this time of year that she’s better off without Santa because she gets eight days of a holiday instead of one.
As with all things, children have the best solution to this problem, one which includes people of all races, religions, creeds, philosophies, and political leanings: My daughter wants to call it the “GIRLZ R TOTALLY AWESOME” time of year. I think that has a nice ring to it. Don’t you?
So yeah. I hope you have a joyful Christmas season or a Happy Chanukkah or a merry Girlz R Totally Awesome season. I hope I do, too. Whatever we call it.
This column is the Yang to Grayson Local Publisher/editor Jason Brooks’ Ying. It initially appeared on fellow Your Local News, Inc. news site Grayson Local.