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Ready for the Holidays

Picasso's "Dove of Peace"


Ready For The Holidays



Everyone I encounter in my small, upstate New York town is asking if I am ready for the holidays. They don't ask if I'm ready for Santa, or ready for Christmas. This was not the case during the decade I lived in London; everyone asked if I was ready for Christmas. My Jewish and Muslim and Christian friends all had secular, festive Christmas dinners and sent out Christmas cards, as opposed to holiday cards. And it was always "Happy Christmas," not "Happy Holidays," and certainly not "Merry Christmas." I had one (Jewish)  friend who delivered her Christmas cards around the neighborhood by hand. I must ask her when next we speak if she has reverted to that delightful Trollopian tradition during the current postal strike.


It took decades, but here, in America, we are finally using the word "holiday" in a generic sense. In this way we can celebrate an ecumenical season: Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Ramadan, and much else. Certainly, in many schools there is an effort to acknowledge every child's ethnic background. This feels right. This feels like the America we know and try desperately to love. Hopefully, this existential progress will not be corroded by enraged nativist school boards.


My mother grew up in Vienna in a mixed family (Jewish and Catholic) and always had a Christmas tree. But when she married my more observant step-father, no signs of Christmas were allowed in the house; we only celebrated Hannukah. Then when our daughter was born, in celebration of her arrival on earth, my husband and I decided to celebrate everything we could celebrate,: Hannukah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Ramadan, July 4th and Juneteenth. If we were deeply religious, or ethnically chauvinistic to an extreme, this wouldn't be possible. But we are not deeply religious or ethnically chauvinistic. Do I care about my ancestry, of course I do, it is interesting, part of who I am, but I am not here on earth to defend it with a sword; I am here to share it in a loving way.


It is the holiday season, the season of generosity and good will. May we have a moment, at least, of healing and peace--personally, nationally and internationally-- as we bring in the new year.


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