Remembering there’s more than one holiday during the holidays

Published 6:04 am Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Christmas season has officially begun and I couldn’t be happier.

Everything is just better at Christmas time. Homes are decorated inside and out. The Square is breathtaking. Everything is prettier and the smells are amazing, from fresh baked cookies to Christmas-scented candles burning.

Growing up in a Jewish home, I wasn’t allowed to decorate during the Christmas season. Our family did have a big dinner and share presents on Christmas, however. My parents worked often, and with Hanukkah being eight days long, they were never home for that long in one stretch. The whole country shuts down on Christmas so it was just easier to conform to the secular side of Christmas.

We watched Christmas shows and I believed in Santa.

However, decorating or having a tree was crossing a line that even my reformed Jewish parents wouldn’t allow me to cross.

Years went by and when I had my own children, my parents were born again. No, not in the religious sense, but they literally became different people. I get that now, being a grandmother myself. Suddenly, having three little ones around again sparked something inside them.

My mom went out and bought not one, but two Christmas trees one year for their home and she and my kids decorated them each year. Throughout the years, she collected more and more Christmas-themed decorations and while my father grumbled from time to time, he no longer enforced the “no Christmas decoration/tree rule.” My mother would even attend Christmas Eve church services with me.

Her faith didn’t change; she just decided she enjoyed the traditions of the holiday and couldn’t think of any reason why enjoying Christmas music, movies and colorful lights would upset God.

About three years ago, I found out I was adopted. My parents had both passed away by that time so I wasn’t able to learn much about my adoption. For a bit, I didn’t know “what I was” when it came to nationality or if I was even Jewish by birth. It took a few months to adjust to the shock but in time I realized I knew exactly “what I was.” I was me. And each year, there is still a Christmas tree and a Menorah in my home during the holidays. It’s not as black and white as some people’s faith – they’re either Jewish or Christian or several hundred different religions. However, Jesus Christ was Jewish and somewhere down the line, the two religions separated. In my home, they are a wonderful mix, as I feel it was how it was meant to be.

So when I say Happy Holidays to someone I don’t know well, I’m not disrespecting Christ and the celebration of his birth. I’m respecting the fact that not everyone is Christian. Perhaps they’re Jewish and will be celebrating Hanukkah. Maybe they celebrate Kwanzaa. Maybe they aren’t religious at all. I’m also wishing them well for the entire holiday season, including Thanksgiving and New Year’s Eve.

If someone wishes you Happy Holidays, don’t take offense. Be happy someone is wishing you well during a time in our country when that seldom happens on any given day.

Let us all worry more about showing each other love and respect this holiday season than arguing over a greeting — because that is not a part of any of the holidays being celebrated in the coming weeks.