Growing up in NY, I could never ignore Xmas. Why would I ignore it? Well, I’m an orthodox Jew and Jews don’t celebrate Xmas. Every religion has their own holidays and Xmas certainly isn’t on the list of Jewish holidays.
The United States is proud of their “Separation of Church and State” yet there are some allowances made for each religion. The United States is actually a very religious country with the majority of its people believing in G-d. “Separation of Church and State” doesn’t mean that the country bans religion. It just gives each citizen the freedom to practice their faith as they want.
We always knew when it was Xmas week when I was a young child in a private religious elementary school. It was simple. For an entire week there were no school buses. Our school went on learning (we had plenty of vacations on our holidays) but the school buses worked on the public school calendar.
Likewise, I know the public schools also closed on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the holiest days for Jews. No one is coerced into celebrating anyone else’s holidays. Just respect and tolerance is expected. What would be the point of classes continuing on Xmas day or Yom Kippur when a large amount of students would be absent? Do it to prove a point?
As the generations went on some religious practices became national practices. Many of the Jewish religious schools are closed for Thanksgiving. You may go to mass for the holiday, but I look at it as a “legal holiday”. Or maybe part of American culture. The family gets together for a big Turkey Dinner with mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. NFL football games are always included and no one would miss the “Macy’s Day Parade” in the morning. Thanksgiving is part of our culture but not our religion.
Xmas has also become part of our culture. Now that I’m grown up, I love Xmas day and Xmas eve. Very simple, we leave work early on Xmas eve and have the entire day off on Xmas. This one, we Jews haven’t added to our culture. It’s really too based on religion, even today.
But there are still the parts we can’t ignore and even look forward to each year. Who doesn’t love the big tree at Rockefeller center? With all the sparkly decorations and the feeling of “good cheer” the atmosphere in the streets is uplifted. The Xmas songs on the radio are fun and part of our culture – every year I wait to hear “The little drummer boy” song.
And there’s one thing that everyone really enjoys (or maybe not.) That’s all the great Xmas sales. You don’t have to celebrate Xmas to take in the sales. The sales begin on Black Friday and continue well into January. You can tell me there’s religious background to this entire gift giving, but let’s admit it, all these great sales are “American culture”.
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