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Tuesday, December 13, 2005


You'd probably also be interested in today's discussion at Half Changed World.

Brett, you made me curious about Christmas lights... Are those necessarily a Christian thing, or simply a way to lively up a dull winter? Would it be okay for a Jewish house to decorate with lights, snowmen, and candy canes, or is that too closely related to Christian traditions?

Anonymous: Thanks! I'll add a link in a few minutes.

Phil: Like anything nowadays, it's a work in progress. When I was a kid, hideous electric menorahs were popular, but I rarely see them nowadays. The whole point of Hanukkah are the candles themselves.

But since it is the festival of lights, more and more Jews are decorating with lights. Also, Jews used to be wary of advertising their religion when I was a kid, which may explain some of the holiday's low-key nature.

You'd have to ask an expert if there is any tie-in between Christmas and Hanukkah, but I was always led to believe not. As I recall, Christmas blended northern European tribal traditions -- such as the tree -- into the holiday. But again, I'm no expert.

As for the other traditions, I do not know many Jews who include candy canes or trees. Snowmen seem more accepted, but only marginally so. Mixed marriages seem to be the most open to Christmas lights.

Also, you might want to read Elizabeth's post, which adds perspective.

Hope that helps.

Weird - I'm "Anonymous," but I thought your site had my personal info memorized.

I recognized the link, but I thought maybe you were going incognito today. Hope all is well in Washington.

sorry, but you're definitly wrong; it must be a very strange view you americans have there over...
If somebody asks you, what you think, what your son is thinking, you should encourage him to get used to tell the truth - it's not his problem other people have more or less stupid dreams.
Greetings from germany,

I agree about telling the truth Stefan, but there's a practical issue you're not considering: my personal experience is that people do not like having their beliefs questioned or undercut.

In some cases it is downright dangerous. This is not true of just in the United States; consider the violence in Australia.

Intolerance can be a dangerous thing, and because of it, it will be my children's problem. If my children discover an injustice, I would want them to speak up. At the same time, I want them to be able to function in society and remain safe to boot. It's a tough balancing act.

Truth is relative anyway. Is seeing always believing, or can we believe in things we cannot touch, feel, taste, etc.?

Some of our greatest inventors, authors, and artists were people who had active and creative imaginations.

Obviously I don't believe that there is a real Santa Claus, but I do believe that the attributes he has been given by history and culture are very real for those of us who would like to see a little less meanness and selfishness in the world.

My kids could have worse role models than Santa!

Which is why I choose to teach my kids to respect others beliefs up until the point they are dangerous or destructive.

This post hit home for me as well as my experience as one of the few Jewish kids in a town in Long Island New York in late 60's / early 70's was pretty much the same. You learned early to keep your mouth shut or else the kids would be reminded that you were different then them. I adapted but when we moved to the very next town which was about 50% Jewish I felt like I was in a foreign land.

My wife converted to Judaism before our kids were born so they see all the Christmas stuff at Grandma and Grandpa's. My son is 3 1/2 and this year began asking for a tree. He knows we're Jewish and his grandparents are not but hasn't asked why that is yet. Our compromise was he will get to help pick out the tree being bought for their house. Should be amusing. - DI_Dad

It's interesting how families cope with all the competing holidays. Let us know how picking the tree goes.

Interesting discussion, especially after watching "Miracle on 34th Street" this evening.

From my (Christian) view, Santa Claus is an example of the secular forces invading Christmas, and I often forget that he is, after all, based on a Christian saint and could therefore be construed as "religious." Similarly, I don't necessarily view the trees as Christian (the custom originated in northern Europe), but I guess that could be construed as a Christian symbol also.

I like the idea of the Festival of Lights actually having lights....

Incidentally, my dentist has indicated that I might have to get my wisdom teeth pulled. The Tooth Fairy still comes for wisdom teeth, right?

Xmas: For the record, Christmas never bothered me much. I'd find it a lot more disoncerting to live in a place that didn't celebrate the holiday each year. That would be "strange" to me.

Tooth Fairy: Sorry, the drug fairy comes for pulled wisdom teeth. Drugs for pain relief, that is.

(Acutally, it's not all that bad. I had ALL 4 pulled at the same time and I was eating solids in no time. Of course, I was 19.)

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