Friday, December 25, 2009

Go Prudie!

I fully expected a PC response about how her boyfriend should open up to the wonders of a secular Christmas--the general line fed to us by the media. I was pleasantly surprised by her response. She gets it. Christmas is a Christian religious holiday. And if you want Jewish kids, you raise them in a Jewish house--celebrating Jewish religious holidays.

There is also the issue of disrespect to Christians. Having had a few devout Christian friends over the years, and having spent a year living with a very devout Christian, I cannot help but think that if I were Christian I would find this practice of non-Christians appropriating Christmas as a non-religious holiday a bit offensive. Think about it. Christmas is the the day in which believers celebrate the birth of Christ and the birth of their faith, a new era and so on. This is one of the holiest days in the Christian calendar, no? How can it possibly be respectful to effectively say "Yeah, well, I think your religion and your version of G-d is so much bullshit, but hey, I'll take the tree. And the gifts."

Something just


Lena said...

Actually, Christmas isn't a Christian holiday at all. Jesus wasn't born on December 25...most biblical scholars who have attempted to determine his birth date have come up with something in late spring or summer.

The placement of Christmas at the end of December coincides with the winter solstice and the pre-Christian celebration of Saturnalia at the same time. Jesus' birth was placed in late December in order to attract pre-Christians (aka. "pagans") to Christianity by saying "hey look, you can still kind of celebrate Saturnalia...see?" It is for the same reason that in the Caribbean and parts of West Africa that native orishas double as Catholic saints (ex. Babalu Aye = St. Lazarus and so on).

In fact, "Christmas" symbols such as mistletoe, the yule log and the Christmas tree are all pagan in origin as well.

Summary: there is nothing authentically Christian about Christmas.

Anonymous said...

So much appropriation going on. I agree with Lena about the placement of Christmas around the time of Saturnalia BUT, if that's the date that has been chosen to celebrate the holiest day in their calendar, then who am I to argue? So I also agree with you as well - let's keep the celebrations separate as well, rather than merging them.


Gila said...

Whether or not the Christmas holiday or its symbols meant something different 2000 years ago, at this point they mean Christmas.

If I were a believing Christian (am not, obviously), this is how I would view it:

Jesus came to the world mid-stream, as it were. Unlike a lot of other faiths around at the time, he was not considered a god of a particular region or city or people or class. Anyone could believe in him, and be saved by him. And indeed, people from all over the world do. And each people has made its own contribution-their own Christmas gift-to the celebration of his birth. Each people has made that celebration its own. When you look at it that way, there is something rather beautiful about the variety of origins of symbols in the Christmas holiday.

Leave to the side for now the issue of HOW Christianity was spread, and what cost in human life etc. :)

I also have no doubt that any number of Jewish/Israeli customs and symbols were in facted adapted from pre-Jewish or non-Jewish practices and symbols. That is how things go. Ideas are recycled and modified.

Mongrel said...

Did read somewhere Santa Claus to be an invention of the Coca Cola Company.

We by the way only do Sinterklaas....
.................the story about putting mean children in to a grinder allways has been my favourite.
5 december's the best day of the year!

Unknown said...

Well, when Christmas crap overwhelms 99% of everything in the US, I can see why the non-Christians, non-religious folks just go along with it. I know very few people who just flat out don't do SOMETHING from December 21-25 (to date: one friend of mine who just got fed up with Christmas). Heck, I'm pagan, but we pretty much do the same things at Yule that we'd do at Christmas a few days later.

Friar Yid (not Shlita) said...

I think the complication is when you have very secular Christians (such as the girlfriend and her family in the story) who like the icons and images of Christmas (some of them, anyway) and don't have any particular religious connection to them.

Since their views about Christmas and Christmas symbols are so far from religious Christians' views, it's hard to lecture them about what Christmas "really means." In their minds, the issue isn't about the Jewish boyfriend potentially disrespecting imaginary Baptists somewhere... it's about wanting them to participate in their family's ritual, which happens to not have (from their POV) a very religious context.

If the two individuals are so far apart on this issue (and neither feels like they have the ability to compromise), they may need to go their separate ways.

More here (thanks for the inspiration!)

aliyah06 said...

Like Gila, I have a few mainstream, committed-but-not-fanatic Catholic and Protestant Christian friends in the old country that I'm quite close to....and because of that closeness they felt free to express their outrage over Jews who have, from their perspective, misappropriated a major Christian holy day and secularized it by turning the Christmas tree into a secular folk symbol rather than a symbol of the "everlasting Christ" and the cross he died on for their sins.....c'mon folks, if we're going to be all post-modernly sensitive to people's cultures, you can't trample on anyone, even believing Christians. Appropriating the trappings of Christmas because it's pretty or cute or makes you feel "accepted" in part of the larger culture is morally wrong and culturally insensitive to the max -- beyond not being Jewish.

robin said...

I tried to have this conversation in a class at school where we are supposed to examine the cultural dimensions of our lives blah blah. I took a picture of a Christmas tree labeled "holiday tree," and rebutted it with a picture of a hanukkiah labeled "holiday candelabra."

I said, do you feel included just because I call it a holiday something?

To my dismay, someone actually said "yes"

I said, "You feel included, even though you don't know anything about the holiday or the symbol and it's not part of your religion?"

"Yes, it's festive."

Festive??? It's not freaking festive. It's a national symbol, it's on ancient and modern coins!

The point I was trying to make is that slapping on a "holiday" label on a religious item doesn't make that religious item secular. Unfortunately, I must not have been clear enough (or people weren't interested in discussing it in depth).

Anonymous said...

I LOVE Prudie :-)

Gila said...

Prudie ROCKS!

Aliyah06--so you mean that there actually are Christians who are not amused by the wholesale appropriation of their relgious symbols?

Of course, the real issue here (proverbial elephant in the room) is what a Jewish guy who wants to raise his kids Jewish is doing dating a non-Jew...and what a non-Jew who appears to know very little about either Judaism OR Christianty is doing agreeing to that.

My conclusion: neither one of them really has a firm grip on 1) Judaism or 2) what it means to raise children Jewish.

Tzipporah said...

I thought it was adorable that her mom adopted Thanksgiving and Christmas as "American" holidays. Probably just like she would eat out at a Chinese restaurant to have "American" food. :)

Tzipporah said...

If there's one thing we're good at, it's cultural appropriation.

Ari said...

Aliyah 06: Help me understand -- your friends are mad at Jews who have trivialized Christmas, yes?

Let's see, how shall I ask this delicately? Do they think it's a conspiracy by worlwide Zionism, or just Jewish department store owners? Sounds a little paranoid to me, but what do I know? I'm just Jewish and wouldn't understand.

That said, I do thank my lucky stars that instead of raping and pillaging Jews, celebrants are instead warbling and rapsodizing about a jolly, fat man, Jack Frost, eggnog and reindeer.

And thank goodness for chocolate eggs and rabbits at Easter. Much better than lynching or burning Jews.

I am such a killjoy.

aliyah06 said...

Ari--no, they're not "mad" and I haven't heard anyone talk about Jewish money-grubbing, Zionist world conspiracies or any other ugly stereotypes. What I've heard is their sense of being ripped off, a sense that their holy day has been trivialized by being turned into a "festive folk holiday" devoid of Christian meaning (and it is a Christian holy day, not a Jewish one, or a secular one).

I totally get what JewishGal was trying to point out--misappropriating someone else's cultural and religious heritage so you can devalue it is wrong. It lessens both peoples. I'm not real thrilled with the current trendy thing in the SF Bay Area where non-Jews now have "bar mitzvahs" -- of course, they're not doing the Torah reading, they're just having a huge blow-out coming-of-age party and calling it a Bar Mitzvah...or the multicultural "spiritual" woman who didn't affiliate with any organized religion because they're "all so paternalistic and backward" but put mezuzot on her doors while lighting incense sticks in front of her Buddha which sat under her crystals.....c'mon, how cheapening can it get?

Sorry, I don't want gentiles putting up mezuzot, wearing tzitzit, or lighting chanukiot (and heaven help us, NOT having an ecumenical Seder where ham was the main dish!! True story!)because these things all have a deep meaning to me and I don't want that meaning cheapened by the soulless adoption of others who are totally clueless and just think its "fun."

Give Christmas back to the Christians. You need lights and a big party? Celebrate New Years Eve--it's lost all religious meaning these days and is celebrated around the world as the changing of the secular calendar year.

Ari said...

Aliyah06 - You make a fine point. Thanks for clarifying. I guess I agree with you, as long as the religious celebration focuses on spiritual growth, not on exacting revenge such as the Easters of yore. Any holiday that has its basis in tearing others down, I'm quite happy to help dilute :>)