Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Christmas Trees, they ain't ok either

I shall preface this, by saying some of my best childhood memories involve my father putting such a tree on top of our car and driving home. Only to have it fall off and we would repeat the whole tying up process on the side of the highway.  Let me assure you, I learned a lot of colorful language as a young child.
It seems all the trappings of the holiday have some sort of religious under-tone.  I have pulled a listing of what all the various symbols from Christmas mean, from about.com.
  • The Star: A heavenly sign of prophecy fulfilled long, long ago- The shining hope of mankind.
  • The Color Red: The first color of Christmas, symbolizing that Savior's sacrifice for all.
  • The Fir Tree: Evergreen- the second color of Christmas shows everlasting light and life. The needles point up to heaven.
  • The Bell: Rings out to guide lost sheep back to the fold, signifying that all are precious in His eyes.
  • The Candle: A mirror of starlight, reflecting our thanks for the star of Bethlehem.
  • The Gift Bow: Tied as we should all be tied together in bonds of goodwill forever.
  • The Candy Cane: Represents the shape of the shepherd's crook, used to bring lost lambs back to the fold.
  • The Wreath: A symbol of the never ending eternal value of love… having no end.
The big ones in my mind are the tree and Santa, but it is not a mistake that his coat is red.  The Christmas Tree is a tricky one, because it's roots are in a pagan celebration of the winter solstice.  It was adopted by the Germans, and has only been a custom in this country for a very short time.  There is an interesting story about how the trees came to the city of Chicago.  But, I digress.

Some Jewish scholars have given up on the tree.  It is so ubiquitous, that they have decided to concede that argument.  That is it ok for public places to have Christmas Trees.  In reality it still is a religious symbol.  Using the same logic as applied to Santa, we really should not have Christmas Trees in public places, funded by tax payer dollars, non-religious organizations should not have these trees as part of their celebrations, they should not show up at schools.

Why is there so much fuss about all of this? I think it is important to understand the origins of the Hanukkah. It is about not assimilating with the culture around you. The basis of the holiday is that the Jews returned to the temple which had been destroyed, rebuilt it. G-d gave them enough oil to burn, and we celebrate that miracle.  Yeah, it is a cliffs notes version of the cliffs notes, but you can google it to get more info.

Gill Mann, on beingjewish.com says, "However, the irony of Christmas and Chanukah coming at the same time of year is that Chanukah celebrates how their identities would not assimilate into the Greek society around them."  This is why there is so much conflict.  Jews are celebrating a holiday about being Jewish, and that type of celebration isn't really done at a party that is also celebrating Christmas.

This is why, when well meaning Christians say, we will celebrate everyone's holiday, they are so offensive.  It shows that they don't understand the meaning of Hanukkah.  It becomes a battle of wills.

Since we live in a country without a mandated religion.  A country founded by people escaping religious persecution, as good Americans, we should keep our religious celebrations at home, and not in the public eye.  Because we can not do for all, what we do for the majority.

Now, cue the patriotic music, show photos of the flag, etc, etc.  I am off to promote the Great Pumpkin.

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