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Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Who Cries at Christmas?

OK.  I admit it.  I love Christmas.  It’s not a theological, religious or faith thing.  No, it’s more sociological, psychological, and nostalgic, I believe.  Nevertheless, I love it.  My friend and colleague Rabbi Ben Kamin wrote that Jews are outsiders at this time of the year, outside looking in, or something to that effect.  How not true for me. 

I never wanted a Christmas tree.  I never asked to put lights up on the house (although we always lived in apartments in Chicago).  I never wanted to go to midnight mass (although I did go several times with high school buddies, all of whom were Christians).  But I certainly remember riding around Chicago with my dad looking for the best light displays.  And, later on when he lived in Deerfield Beach, Florida, driving over to the National Inquirer’s headquarters to see their world renowned Christmas light display. When Juca and I were first married we lived on Addison on the North side (just a few blocks from the cathedral…I’m referring to Wrigley Field) and would love going downtown to the Loop at this time (Ba’yamim Ha Hem, Ba’Zman Ha Zeh) to see all of the store displays and marvel at the shoppers on State Street.  Good times. 

But I expect that that’s not it; not the real reason that I love Christmas. It is the sentiment, the warmth of the holiday.  It’s the hope and wish for peace on earth goodwill toward men.  Christmas is Pesach.  It’s family time; family history; family stories; it’s over the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house we go.  That’s Christmas.  How great to think of kids excited to wake up on Christmas morning to see what is waiting for them under the tree. 

Thank God Judah Maccabee and his gang saved the Jewish People so that Jesus could be born 168 years later so that we could have this wonderful holiday. 

So the real confession here is that whenever I hear Bing Crosby sing “I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas,” or “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” or The Weavers sing, “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” or especially whenever I hear Judy Garland sing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,”  the tears come.  (I cry whenever I hear Judy Garland sing anything…even “The Trolley Song.”  But I digress) Right, so who cries at Christmas?  Me, that’s who,.  Right Ben, it’s not my holiday, but it means a lot to me and in my own way I’m right in the middle of it.  I don’t feel like I’m on the outside looking in.

The Weavers and Pete Seeger add a line after the goodwill toward men sentiment.  They sing, “Why can’t we have Christmas the whole year around?”  With all that’s going on in Connecticut, Israel, Afghanistan, etc. etc. we certainly could use it. 

Have yourselves a merry little Christmas.



  1. I bloody love Christmas. As I type this I'm sitting in my synagogue office listening to Felice Navidad on internet radio happy as a Kosher clam.
    Thanks for this Rabbi... it made my day :)-ellie

  2. I share many of these positive childhood memories and maybe even into h.s., but as an adult I don't like it (thank you for pointing out the good as I'd forgotten), because I've had to shop for years for my protestant in-law family, figure out gifts for staff, etc. I hate shopping; I hate the materialistic emphasis on presents. Now I like Hanukkah more than ever for the light, the fun of lighting candles and playing with dreydls, some nights we add music and dancing and a minimal emphasis on presents.

  3. Nice sentiments, Ron.

    I share similar sentimental feelings about the universal values of peace and goodwill towards others that are expressed at this time of the year.

    More importantly though, I remember this time of year (like you) because of the good memories of spending time with people I love.

    My take on the most wonderful time of the year is on my blog, in case you're interested - http://palter.ca/global/2010/12/18/the-christmas-songs-i-love/

    Thanks for this.