december 2011


Why Jews Love Christmas

‘…a time when people remember to walk in love.’

By Laura Berman Fortgang

I can really only speak for this Jew, but I love Christmas. (Something tells me I'm not alone.) For me, it gets down to two reasons. One, the fascination as an “outsider” who did not have Christmas in their home and two, the mood that permeates the air at Christmastime.

As a kid, I loudly proclaimed every year that when I grew up, I'd get a Christmas tree in my house. I could not stand that we did not get to share in the beauty of that tradition. I did not grow up in a religious household nor am I a religious Jew now, (I'm an interfaith minister for goodness sake!) but we did not cross the line to have Christmas in our home other than one gift from Santa every year. (I assume it was just too heartbreaking for my parents to see us wonder why Santa forgot us) Once I lived on my own, I never got that tree. Nowadays, we hang ornaments the kids have made at school on the mantle, we have a garland of pine somewhere in the house because I love the scent and we've commercialized Hannukah with some blue and white lights around the Menorah's perch, but that's it.

The real reason I love Christmas then, is the spirit in the air that emerges at this time of year. I love wishing people Merry Christmas and I don't mind at all when they say it to me. In fact, I cringe if someone feels awkward not knowing what to say back because I am Jewish. When the words are exchanged, a warm wish is extended that feels like the hug we should all give each other every day anyway. Christmas is a time when people remember to walk in love.

The commemoration of Christ's birth puts focus on the qualities Jesus lived. Love, compassion and generosity are just a few, but they are the cornerstone of Christmas. Families get together despite their dysfunctions, people count their blessings and give of themselves and their pocketbooks and kindness makes an appearance centerstage. Hey, and we all eat like it's the last supper. (I do have an Italian Catholic side to my family--we know ALL about eating from morning 'till nite on Jesus' birthday!)

warmthWalking in love is really my point here. A smile, a Christmas wish, a card telling you how much you mean to someone, a door held open for your fellow shopper, a basket of food delivered to someone who needs it, buying gifts for a family that won't have a holiday without help, talking to your neighbors who you rarely see, choosing something special to gift someone you love--they all add up to the warmth of the holiday season. I know it's not just about Christmas because Kwanza and Hannukah come now too, but as someone who grew up and has always lived as a minority to this predominantly Christian holiday, I don't feel left out and I don't mind it at all.  I only wish the spirit of it could be our way of being all year round.

As I write this, my heart swells with love that spreads a smile across my face, but I am also remembering how much wrapping I have to do. Stress is trying to find its opening, but I won't let it in. I'll get out and catch some holiday spirit to combat it. I dare suggest that you do the same. But first, I'll make my reservation at the Chinese restaurant for Christmas Eve.  (That's what Jews do on Christmas Eve. And if you ever wonder why they premier movies on Christmas, those are for us too!)

(posted Friday, December 19th, 2008)

fortgangI am an author, veteran life coach (17 years), interfaith minister, biz owner, mom and wife. My new book, The Little Book on Meaning, was published in Spring 2009. This blog was created after finishing the first draft as an extension of the topic. I explore what things mean, what makes a meaningful life and things I just don't understand or make me mad.

Visit Laura Berman Fortgang's blog



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