Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Let's Hear It For Coexistence!

I'm tired of reading about the latest skirmishes in the alleged "War On Christmas," the obsession of people who don't get that church and state are, have always been, and according to our Founding Fathers, always should be, separate. Whenever I hear about some blowhard complaining that he was shopping in a big national chain store and was wished "Happy Holidays," instead of "Merry Christmas," and he thinks this is some kind of crime, I just get depressed by the blowhard's ignorance, and the spreading of intolerance he and his argument represent. "Happy Holidays" could mean "Happy Christmas and New Year's," since New Year's comes right after Christmas. This is a holiday season; it includes Winter Solstice, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, New Year's. And including these other holidays and wishing joy to those who may celebrate them only takes something away from Christmas in the mind of the blowhard. Yes it's the time when the Birth of Christ is officially observed. But there are a lot of other observances, and occasions for celebrating or gift giving, right around the same time. And gee, a lot of the people who celebrate these OTHER days happen to be, um, Americans, when last I checked.

But on a happier, cheerier note...

Sunday evening, Late Blooming Dad and I drove our kids out to the San Fernando Valley's Woodland Hills to look at the lights. There's a neighborhood called Candy Cane Lane where the neighbors put up elaborate light displays, and while a few of them are strictly religious in nature, featuring light-up nativitity scenes, the majority feature everyone from Tigger and Pooh to Sponge Bob, and this year the characters from the movie "UP." There are a lot of inflatable Santas, some Peanuts characters having a Charlie Brown Christmas on someone's front lawn, fake snowballs, and many, many twinkling lights. It's great fun and this year, there was even a nod to our holiday, Hanukkah, via a giant inflatable Hanukkah Bear with a blue yarmulke, his paws clutching a giant driedel. It was a celebration of winter, American pop culture, and yes, different religions. And it was quite a harmonius mix -- like secular Christmas songs that just happen to be written by Jews (White Christmas, The Christmas Song, Silver Bells, etc.) or sung by them (heard that new Neil Diamond Christmas album, anyone? Have a Cherry Cherry Christmas).

The kids thoroughly enjoyed it. They did ask about Christmas and why we don't celebrate it, but this was about as teachable a moment as you can get when it comes to explaining that different people follow different religions, and in America, that's okay. That maybe there isn't one truth, but many. That maybe the main idea of them all is, "Love The Neighbor," and the rest is, as Late Blooming Dad says, "commentary."

On the way to dinner, along with the hamburger joints, we passed a sushi restaurant, a Halal meat market, a kosher bakery, a Chinese take-out place. Our dinner destination was Brent's Deli in Northridge, a deli so good, even transplanted New Yorkers like myself admit it's as good as any deli east of the Hudson. It was packed with families slurping down matzoh ball soup, chewing pastrami and corned beef sandwiches on rye, munching on pickles. I had an egg cream with dinner.
It was a great night, a night to be had only in America, and maybe only in Los Angeles. (A friend on Facebook, who has since moved to North Carolina, read my post about it and was sighing about how much she missed L.A.). I think my many Christian -- and agnostic -- and atheist -- and fellow Jewish friends would agree. It made me feel included in the American Dream, and that feeling of inclusiveness is, in a way, a holy feeling, one that puts me in mind of peace on earth and good will toward ... well, even blowhards.

So Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Winter Solstice, and Happy New Year to all, and to all a black and white cookie from Brent's.


Alex said...

Every year, when I hear the "War on Christmas" talk, I wonder if the blowhards realize that the real meaning of Christmas for believers isn't about shopping or what people say to them at the mall.

Wishing you all a very inclusive holiday season, filled with joy and wonder.

William V. Madison said...

As interested as I was in the discussions here of faith and holidays, everything else flew out of my head when I read the words "egg cream." And egg cream in L.A.?!?! I am FLABBERGASTED!