Jews and Christmas

merry xmasSo last night, I went to publix supermarket to buy a few snacks for the family. Because of my heart issues, I still need to use the electric cart to get around in the store. As I cruised up and down the aisles looking for our favorite junk food, I noticed that not many people were smiling. Even though I really don’t do Christmas, it was Christmas Eve, so as I passed people in the aisles, workers and shoppers alike, I started wishing everyone a Merry Christmas. It was amazing to me to watch people’s demeanor transform with smiles as they wished me a Merry Christmas as well. Here I was a Jewish guy with a gray beard, wearing a Happy Festivus tee-shirt riding up and down the aisles in an electric cart wishing everyone Merry Christmas! ZAYDE Claus has arrived!!!!

I really don’t understand what the big deal is.  I was at the gym and they had a sign with letters strung across the main desk that said “Merry Christmas.”  I wished the woman at the desk a Merry Christmas.  She smiled and wished me the same.  She went on to say that these days she didn’t know whether to wish people a Merry Christmas, or Happy Holidays.  I told her that Jews don’t celebrate Christmas, but they don’t get offended if you wish them a Merry Christmas.  She said she agreed, and that Jews don’t seem offended by Christmas, it’s the “others.”  I asked which “others” she was talking about, and she said the atheists, as well as other religions seem to be making a big deal about it.

Jews have been living among Christians for a long time.  We have gotten used to Christmas, and have enjoyed many of the seasonal festivities.  Personally, I love the music and the lights and decorations.  Most people I know do as well.  I agree with people who don’t believe December 25th was the day of Yeshua’s birth, and in that sense, I see it as a seasonal celebration more than anything else.  Some people have given me small gifts, and I don’t mind giving them gifts as well.

I do know many people from the “anti-Christmas” crowd.  They take exception to the fact that Yeshua probably wasn’t born on December 25th, as well as to the Christmas tree being an adaptation of symbols that may have been used in pagan worship.  They tend to be stuck in roots rather than their adaptations.

Personally, I don’t believe roots of symbols matter more than how we use them.  The Scriptures teach that it is a sin to lift your heart to an idol.  The idol itself is nothing.  It’s the lifting of one’s heart to it that’s the sin.  Having a tree is not a problem as long as you aren’t worshipping it.  I don’t know any druids personally, so I don’t know anyone worshipping trees.  I wonder if reform druids worship bushes?  A tree is just a tree.  Lights and music are festive, and beautiful.

If some people want to use December 25th as a day to thank God that Yeshua came into the world, I don’t have a problem with it. It’s not my thing, but I respect people who do things in a different way than I do.  I expect and usually receive the same courtesy from them regarding my beliefs.

Where does this leave me?  I am enjoying the Christmas lights people used to decorate their homes; I am enjoying the special music on the radio and watching the specials on TV; and I’m taking my family to my parents so we can send out for Chinese food, which is our way of celebrating the day.

A gut yontiff to all, and to all a good night.

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Dealing With Holiday Disappointment

festivusPsychologists say the most depressing time for many people is the holiday season.  I love holidays, but also find myself vulnerable during this time.  For most of my life, I have been very sensitive.  Its something I really can’t help, it’s how I’m wired.  I realize this puts a burden on the people around me, and I try to just suck it up, but I find myself getting hurt even when it may not have been people’s intent.  Art Garfunkel summed it up well in his song, “All I Know,”

I bruise you, you bruise me

We both bruise too easily

Too easily to let it show

I love you, and that’s all I know

I get bruised very easily.  The good side, is that I have learned to be compassionate towards other people’s pain.  I know that I’m not the only hyper-sensitive person out there, but what can I do?

I love the idea of Festivus, the Seinfeld inspired secular holiday where people sit around the table telling how they have disappointed one another in the past year.  While its pretty awkward to discuss disappointment, it’s probably a good thing because you get to air your grievances, which can be helpful to a relationship.  Some people may be hurting others and they don’t have a clue.  Others may have rationalized their behavior and don’t see that they are causing pain to others.  Finding a KIND way of sharing these things is good.

Nevertheless, even if you try, some people just don’t want to hear it.  They accuse you of making it all about you. There may be some truth to it, but at the same time, people can be pretty insensitive, especially our loved ones.  Relatives tend to take each other for granted.  The holidays are the worst times.

What can people do with their hurt feelings?  First, do what you can to repair a relationship if you can. If you need to apologize, do it.  If you need to forgive, do it. Don’t be too quick to write people off.   If you are invited to a party… GO.  You might be pleasantly surprised.  Sometimes people care more about us than we think they do. People will be happy to see you, because you cared to come.  When I needed surgery, and couldn’t afford it, I was shocked that my friends came through with big money to pay for it.  We may mean more to others than we realize. 

Second, it helps to recognize that being involved in toxic relationships will not be beneficial.  Avoid negative people who drag you down.  Sometimes, there is nothing you can do to fix a relationship, and continuing in it will only create more pain.

Some people go into therapy, and sometimes derive benefit.  Other people avoid people who make them feel bad and hang around with the ones who make them feel affirmed.  That’s a good thing to do.  Finding people who know and value you is positive.  I stopped trying to change the negative perceptions some people have had of me, and spend my time and energies with the ones who value being with me and build me up.

Another thing that helps is to do things to help others.  Helping others can be transforming, for them, and for you.  Rather than let people define you by their negativity, do something positive for others.  Become a blessing.

More than anything else, Forgive people for their hurtful behavior.  Think of the things you have been forgiven for, and be generous towards others in forgiveness.  Sometimes people really don’t mean what they say, and you don’t know what they are going through.  People lash out without meaning it.  Even if you have been hurt, be quick to forgive.