Happy Solstice

first-hanukkahToday is Winter Solstice day, the shortest day of the year if you live in the northern hemisphere, and the longest day if you live south of the equator. From here on in, those of us in the north will enjoy slightly longer days and slightly shorter nights for the next six months. (If if you’re looking forward to earlier sunrises, you need to wait a bit longer: strangely enough, the latest sunrise of the year is not for another couple of weeks.)

Today is also the fifth day of the Jewish celebration of Hanukkah [now the sixth day; I didn’t finish this post until after sunset]. I assume most of my readers are familiar with Hanukkah! But if not, let me reference for you an ancient description of Hanukkah. What’s Hanukkah? It’s the day we Jews go to our houses of worship and decorate them with golden crowns and small shields. We sing songs while we play harps, lutes and cymbals.

No, no. That’s not the right description. Let’s start again, this time looking at a different ancient description. What’s Hanukkah? It is a festival of light, where we light candles, one additional candle for each day of the festival. We also give gifts, play gambling games for gold coins (in our day, made of chocolate) and generally celebrate in our homes.

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“Gentlemen’s Agreement,” “Community” and the War on Christmas

downloadIn my last post, I responded to Anthony Le Donne’s piece on the so-called “War on Christmas.” I wrote that from my Jewish perspective, there is no war. There is a holiday called “Christmas” that is enthusiastically celebrated by just about everyone in North America and the U.K., which not coincidentally are the only places I know where this “War” is discussed. The so-called “War” is nothing more than a discussion on how we’d each like to be greeted in December (“Merry Christmas?” “Happy Holidays?” Something else? No greeting?), and what kinds of holiday displays may or may not be too religious to be displayed on government property.

But maybe I’m missing something important here. Anthony posted a comment on my blog where he noted how young non-Christians perceive Christianity as anti-homosexual, judgmental and hypocritical. Anthony opined that “some of these impressions are warranted,” and pointed out that Christians have not faced anything like the kind of hatred experienced by American Jews, Mormons, Muslims and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Then … he dropped this little bomb on us:

As a parent, I have another view on this. Do I want my children’s classmates, teachers, coaches, friends, etc. to stereotype my kids as “antihomosexual, judgmental, hypocritical, old-fashioned, too involved in politics, out of touch with reality, insensitive to others”? Do I want my children to develop this negative self image of themselves? Of course I don’t. Christians are wrong to feel persecuted or think that there is a war being waged… but I understand why my fellow Christians think that people hate them.

Boom.

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Greetings 101

imagesOver at The Jesus Blog, Anthony Le Donne has written an impassioned piece about the so-called War on Christmas. This “war” is a term some pundits use to describe an array of slights against Christians and the Christmas season, from controversies over nativity scenes in public places, to the simple greeting “Happy Holidays” delivered by staff at the Walmart.

You could write a book about it. In fact, Fox News’ John Gibson has written a book about it. It’s available in hardcover at amazon.com for $0.01 (not much of a profit margin, but maybe they make it up in volume). Here’s a blurb from the book’s page on Amazon:

In the United States of America, a nation overwhelmingly Christian, literally any sign of Christmas in public can now lead to complaints, litigation, angry protests, threats, and bruised feelings. Every year the limitations get tighter and tighter and spread to more and more communities, far from the big liberal cities. And as Fox News Channel’s John Gibson reveals in this shocking exposé, it’s not happening by accident.

Secular liberals say they’re just protecting the constitutional rights of non-Christians who don’t want to see or hear about Christmas. But what about the constitutional rights of millions of Americans who simply want to celebrate their traditional holiday—without insulting anyone else but also without having to hide behind closed doors?

Hiding behind closed doors? Really? When every mall and town square is decorated for Christmas for a solid month? When the media is saturated with Christmas advertising, Christmas-themed programming, and worst of all (shudder!), Christmas music? (Much of this music was written by Jews, for whatever that’s worth.) What holiday is celebrated in the West with more enthusiasm, with more stamina and more publicly than Christmas?

Sigh.

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