How can the most wonderful holiday of the year upset me, you wonder? Good question.
I grew up in a reform Jewish home, meaning it was more cultural than religious. For me, the best part of growing up Jewish was the Jewish food, still is, actually!
In Edison, New Jersey, where I spent my childhood, all of my friends but one other Jewish girl, had Santa sliding down their chimneys to bring them gifts galore. I looked outside our home to see if we had a chimney too, and wondered, “Why didn’t Santa come down ours?”
So one day I asked my dad, “Does our chimney have a Jewish star on it?” He laughed and explained that that was just not “our” holiday. Period. Then I ventured a bit further and asked if we can have a Hanukkah Tree to put our Hanukkah gifts under. I still remember how his face turned beet red, and he immediately refuted my suggestion with a, “Hanukkah doesn’t have a tree, and we don’t need to try to change our holiday to match theirs”.
Oh yes, and to add another level of confusion, my birthday is on Christmas Eve, December 24th. How come all my non-Jewish friends got more gifts than me on MY birthday, plus they weren’t around to celebrate MY special day?! LOL
Let’s face it. It’s never easy to be different. But now I really get it, that’s what makes the world go around. Thank God I’ve finally realized that being different is not only OK, but it allows us to be uncomfortable with the “norm” and venture out to explore beyond the memes set upon us as children.
As a spiritual but not religious single mom, I consciously decided to raise my children with Jewish holidays, since that is how I grew up and it’s the ones that I am most familiar with. In all honesty, I truly cherish the Hebrew prayers and the luminous glow from the lighting of the candles in the menorah. I also appreciate how non-commercial Hanukkah is compared to Christmas.
My kids do have a tough time out there, because they do not celebrate Christmas, which to most, means something must be wrong with us. I will not get into all of the anti-Semitism we face here ~ that may be for another blog. But I’m sure you can imagine what it is like.
One year my daughter, Ocean, suggested we have a World Religion tree, which we did. It was so wonderful, as we placed all of the religion’s symbols, including the good ol’ peace symbol. Google really helped us with this venture!
A few Holiday seasons ago, a good friend gave it to me straight, the way I like it, “Wendy, you are personifying the Grinch here, is that what you really want to do?” Uh oh. He was right, and as a free spirited love-thy-neighbor type of woman, I wanted to change that mentality as soon as possible.
So I asked my spiritual advisor what to do about this Grinch mentality that I’ve had since childhood, of which I’d like to leave behind and not pass it on to my children! Her wise advice was, “Wendy, next time someone says ‘Merry Christmas’ to you, hear it as ‘I love you’, because that is what they are really saying anyway. When I took her advice, my heart was filled with joy for this abundant season of love and care. And this also helped me realize that I was born at one of the most wonderful times of the year! How amazing to have such high spirits, bright lights and love all around me on the day I entered the world. It is a true blessing, not this childhood curse I carried with me for too long.
And so I will end this blog with a few statistics for you. Almost 80% of the United States is Christian, yet 32% of the world is Christian, less than 1/3rd. With social media and the significant ability to meet people with like minds, with no geographical boundaries, this is really the perfect time for us to open ourselves to others who are different from us.
With my professional work, “Social Media With A Conscience,” I envision a world where we can engage with one another on a human to human level, or a heart to heart level, and not only learn about other religions, holidays, traditions, etc., but expand our horizons and remember that the Golden Rule applies to all.
As the Dalai Lama states so wisely, “My religion is kindness.”
Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanza! And Happy New Year!