Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas, Merry

Some readers might be surprised to know I love Christmas. I say "Merry Christmas" to store clerks, to operating room personnel. As long as I don't have to live next to this, I think it's really cool to see houses all decorated up; been known to take a drive just to have a look. And I totally love singing Christmas carols, to which I can supply a very impressive (trust me) bass or baritone harmony. Heads used to turn (in a good way), when I'd bellow it out in a group of carolers a few years back. Great stuff.

For as long as I've been married to her (forty years), my wife's family has had some sort of Christmas extravaganza. The oldest of nine kids, aunt to several offspring of her siblings, Judy totally gets into gift-giving, spending hours running around to find the perfect and perfectly personal gift for each person. At her folks' home, presents used to extend so far beyond the would-be drip line of the tree (decorated with ornaments a few generations old, and new ones every year) that it bordered on obscene. But watching the kids open their presents was (mostly) heartwarming.

Once it got too far out of hand, someone came up with the idea a few years ago that the siblings wouldn't give gifts to each of their others; now each sib rotates, yearly, the one to whom a gift is given. Even that has tapered off lately; but the grandkid generation still gets from all. There's nothing wrong with a little love of family, overt, unabridged. And good food, too. For some, it might be that Christmas is the only time everyone gets together for it. (In my family-by-marriage, it happens more or less monthly.)

The religious aspect -- what little of it seems to remain, even for Christians -- I can take or leave. Nativity scenes are fine with me, long as they're on the lawns of churches, homes, businesses. Courthouse terraces? Not so much. The annual Foxian war rhetoric notwithstanding, Christmas seems to have become, on its own, not much more than a marketing tool. Hard to see a "war" when debriding newspapers, daily, hourly, of advertising inserts. And who, other than RWS™, can blame merchants for not wanting to turn away anyone? "Happy Holidays." Why is it a problem? On the other hand, when clerks wish me Merry Christmas, I sent it right back at 'em, with a smile.

My brother sent me the above photo. I replied that, now that I think about it, Yah-weh sounds pretty Chinese.


Frank Drackman said...

Wow, what a co-ink-ee-dinky...
I had a group of Koreans try to convert me the other day...
Right in the driveway of my Palatial McMansion, was changing the Oil in the Z06, so couldn't really avoid them.
And I responded in kind, expressed by Condyloma-ences for the dear departed Kim-Jong-Ill(hey if Jimmuh Cartuh can do it, so can I) and asked if they had kittens & puppies in Korean-heaven..

OK by this time they were on to the next house...


Sam Spade said...

Sam's great-grandfather immigrated from Ukraine to sell hats in Baltimore. Otherwise Sam is ethnically Christian (though really it's profoundly wrong to label me as such, or as a Jew). I mention this only because I don't wish to sound churlish. Well, okay, I like talking about myself too.

I can't shake a feeling that it's wrong to force children to participate in a culture or religion. Cultural differences are interesting, and I admit I'm glad for them. But still.

A few years ago, at a moment when my Asperger's filter was weak, I asked a Jewish co-worker if it wasn't perhaps unkind to deny his little daughters a present at a time when every other child was getting them. I'm pretty sure he didn't care, but his wife evidently wanted his daughters to know in their bones that they are different.

Obviously solstice celebrations pre-date Jesus, and I don't recall seeing a date of birth or any mention of conifers in the Bible. So really my friend's wife's reasoning amounts to, "The Christians have claimed the evergreen tree/gift giving/solstice thing, and therefore we must reject it to maintain our cultural heritage and unity."

Richard Feynman had the perfect attitude about Judaism in my opinion; he celebrated what he liked and condemned what he didn't. He was joyful when an old Jewish woman said something like, "Today I met a doctor and now a professor. My day is complete." On the other hand a group of rabbinical scholars had noticed that light switches produce a spark, and were thus worried about using light switches on the sabbath. Feynman addressed their concern from an electrical engineering point of view, and was alarmed that they didn't care to understand. He doesn't say so in so many words, but I imagine he found that to be a repugnant way to live a life. So do I. Nor do I see a practical way to promote cultural cohesion without appealing to metaphysical nonsense.

Sid Schwab said...

I've thought the same thing about forcing religion on kids: seems a bad thing to do, making open-mindedless and curiosity harder to achieve. But, of course, the religious would see it entirely the opposite way: not to indoctrinate would be to let them down.

On the other hand, I managed eventually to think for myself. In part, I suppose, it was from growing up in a not-very-religious household.

Gypsy said...

I grew up in a VERY religious household, and it took me about 58 years to throw off all that crap. I raised my kids in the same faith that I was brought up in, but didn't constantly pound the fear of hell into them. Now maybe 2 of them sort of believe and 2 of them don't.

I think it all depends on whether you decide to use the intelligence and free will given to you, to decide what you believe or don't believe in.


Popular posts