xmas jumble wikipedia

Christmas is magical. The mystic that has been built around it in America is demonstrated in every store and television special. What we expect to feel – and what many do feel – about the entire Christmas season is a sense of elation.

If you have loved Christmas all your life then there are many reasons that make it remarkable for you. Here are three powerful aspects of Christmas.

1. Family – this is one of the two most family-oriented holidays in America. (The other being Thanksgiving.) Everyone gets together; everyone makes an effort to get along. Even cynical Uncle Fred wears a Santa hat and gets into the spirit of family rituals – games, meals, decorating, etc.

2. Ritual – the repetition of words and actions is tremendously powerful. Even two Christians getting married can have conflict over doing it “my” way vs. “yours.” Buying the tree, making Grandma’s special cookies, decorating together – all the things that you did for year after year are rituals that you simply see as a part of you. What you did as a child has, by this time, become a core part of you.

3. Cultural affirmation – the entire country is doing this together. I remember a woman, not religiously Christian, but what I would call American Folkloric Christian, saying, “I love Christmas; it’s the only time of year that everyone is together.” What she meant was during the Christmas season postal workers, BART riders, retail sales people, courthouse clerks, are all more cheerful, wish you a Merry Christmas, wear a Christmas pin and have a small bowl of peppermints on their desk; these a national sense of togetherness.

If you are the non-Jewish partner you ‘get’ what I am saying here. I hope if you are the Jewish partner you can now better understand why you may feel so threatened by the massive event that is Christmas.

If you do not yet have children, experiment with Christmas. Together, practice some or all of the Christmas activities of the non-Jewish partner. Each of you should make note of what you feel about each of activity. BE HONEST with your self and each other. Don’t make excuses like, the Christmas tree is really pagan. NO ONE is putting up a tree because they are pagan.

With each activity consider these things:
*How do I feel? – Elated? Anxious? I would be embarrassed for my parents/friends/ clergy person to see me doing this.
*How does my partner feel? Listen to each other describing how they feel. Take it in.
*Is this OK for us as a couple but I worry about how a child will perceive this? – I worry that this will make any child turn Christian, or at least less Jewish.
*I’m afraid doing ‘this’ will lead to my giving in about something else.
*How would we explain this to our children? – Write down some possible explanations and feel free to run them by me.

Also consider, how long does Christmas last for us? Is it one week, we dash out get a tree, decorate, shop, and celebrate and take down the tree and clean up all in 7 days? Or does it begin sometime in October and last through early January?

If you don’t have kids, or the kids are pretty young, you can do a lot of experimenting with no need for explanation. Go for it.

Have many conversations. Be completely honest with your self. If you are the Christmas lover, let it in that Christmas is not a pagan ritual or we wouldn’t be celebrating it in this country. This holiday is Christian at its heart and in the eyes of other religious minorities – Jews, Muslims, Hindus, etc. That may not be what it means to you, but that is how the others view it. Understand that your Jewish partner has every right to be anxious, unhappy and uncomfortable. He or she may not have the experience of ‘losing’ a family tradition but he has lived in a subordinate culture all his life – frankly, that is hard for a lot of people. Show some sympathy and try to understand what he/she is going through in a Christian country day and especially from October to January.

If you are the Jew, own your discomfort, don’t just act it out. Talk about your feelings; your partner can’t read your mind. If you are having a hard time articulating what you feel, call me and we can sort it out. Notice what it is your partner loves at its core – is it being with family? Creating a fantasy wonderland? Having a buzzing social life? Baking all day? Ask your self, in what ways have I (or could I) offer them Jewishly based activities that would help to meet this need? I’m not saying you will be able to replace Christmas, I am saying that if there is very little fun in your Jewish life you aren’t offering much and shouldn’t expect Judaism to look very attractive to them.

Each of you should mentally step back and try to see Christmas through your partner’s eyes. You don’t have to take on their view, but you should understand it.

Now, Christmas is next week, so embrace whatever it is that the two of you have decided to do. If Christmas is going to be a part of your lives and you want to raise your children Jewish, you have some work ahead of you. But remember, no one said raising children would be easy no matter what you choose for your home observance.

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Santa_Claus wikipedia

A mom wrote me with this question: Last year we took our preschool age daughter to celebrate Christmas with the Christian relatives. Everything went smoothly because she was so young and didn’t ask any questions. This year she knows that we are helping to celebrate her cousins’ holiday not ours, but she is asking if Santa will bring her a gift. What should I say?

The first thing to do is to ask your self, what do I feel and believe about this question?

1. Do you wish you could celebrate Christmas and this is a way to break down that wall?
2. Are you afraid this means that Christmas is encroaching on your child’s awareness and about to compromise her Jewish identity?
3. Did you grow up with Santa and consider failure to instill a Santa belief to be a deprivation for your child?
4. Are you worried that your child will ‘spill the beans’ and tell her cousins that there is no Santa if you pursue the truth?
5. Do you not want your child to feel left out when all the other cousins receive gifts from Santa?

For your child this is still just a question. For you it is probably bringing up the baggage of a lifetime – whether you’re Jewish or not. For starters, don’t load your emotional memories or worries onto your child. To prevent that you need to:

Figure out what you are feeling
Find out what your partner and any other parental figures are feeling
Have an adult conversation with them while putting the wellbeing of your child first.

Now let’s walk through the concerns.

If your child’s innocent interest in getting a present feels like a way to get Christmas back then it is time to review your feelings of loss and discuss them with your partner. Is your feeling of loss being honored and is there effort made to provide nurturing experiences for you that meet your needs?

If you are afraid that this question is the advance guard to crush her Jewish identity, you’re feeling hemmed in and isolated as a Jew/Jewish family and you need to enrich and expand your Jewish lives.

If you grew up with Santa and all things Claus and feel that the entire glorious fantasy is as close as it gets to innocent and total joy on earth you need to pause and remember that the Santa extravaganza is a relatively modern and very American commercial invention. The majority of children around the world do not experience it or even necessarily know about it. Not having Santa visit is not at all necessary to a joyful and happy life. However, it has made a huge impact on you and you need to explore your feelings of depravation with your partner.

If your concern is that your child is too young to keep a secret and will tell her cousins that there is no Santa and those presents are all from Mom and Dad, then you could (a) tell her that yes, Santa will bring her a present – and bring along a Santa gift. You’ll tell her the truth in a few years. Or you can (b) tell her that Santa will not bring her a gift because you asked that he now because you are giving/gave her all those Hanukkah presents and that’s enough.

If you are worried that your daughter will feel left out when the others receive a gift from Santa you could do what I mentioned above about kids who are too young to keep the secret or you could say Jewish people don’t get gifts from Santa, (a) you have plenty of presents already or (b) Mom/Dad and I are bringing you a special present for the celebration.

If your particular concern is not addressed here, please feel free to email me. I love to hear from you.

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Let’s talk about Christmas for the children in an interfaith family. Let me remind you of two truths:

1. Your child is not exactly like anyone else, so you can’t duplicate another parent’s choices.
2. Your child is not so unique that you can’t learn from other parents.

In today’s world there is a bonus, many people have grown up in interfaith homes and can give us personal accounts of things that were successful and things that were not. Guess what? What works for child 1, didn’t work for child 2. So you need to stay tuned in to your child. If your child is normal they will go through the same developmental stages as all children and you can use developmental guidelines to help you with your decisions.

The big question this time of year is, Is it OK to have Christmas in our home? How will it impact our children?

Yes, Christmas matters. So let’s look at how it matters to kids.

First there is how you as parents handle it. Are you both comfortable? No one is unusually quiet or holding their breath? Because if one or both of you are tense, your kids will know that there is something stressful about Christmas. They may love the presents, food etc, but they will also feel bad. Talk to your partner; talk to me. Try to put your children’s needs first. The argument is not about which one of you “wins,” it’s about seeing to it that your child wins. In order for that to happen you have to find a comfortable meeting place.

Are you raising them as Jews? Christmas is a big symbol; even if you don’t believe in Christ and are not religious at all, the world sees observing Christmas as a Christian act. (Christmas stands for Christ’s Mass.) Be aware that the world around your kids may see this as evidence that they aren’t “really” Jewish. Other children may say things like, “You have Christmas so you’re not Jewish.” The kids aren’t saying that to be mean. They are trying to sort out life and its many parts. You need to be ready with a non-defensive, non-angry statement. Something like, “Dad isn’t Jewish and he loves having Christmas because he did it as a child. So we have Christmas now to show how much we love Dad.” Or to the little friend, “Actually, Christopher, we are Jewish. We have a Christmas tree because Adam’s mommy isn’t Jewish and we have Christmas with her because she loves Christmas and we love her.”

There is something else you want to think about. You are developing in your child a love of Christmas. When your child grows up and moves out of your home do you want him/her to continue celebrating Christmas? When the Christian parent who is the “holder” of Christmas eventually pass away, what do you expect your adult child to do about Christmas? Often we think only in the present. But think into the future. Your children may go through some challenging times as they sort out their Christmas celebration questions. I have adult children of interfaith families who are very conflicted about their continued attachment to and/or practice of Christmas. Others are not bothered at all. My point is that you need to be aware. Think about what you’re instilling in your child. Notice what they say about themselves. As they reach the teen years and adulthood, be ready to have them make different choices, possibly even different from their own siblings. Be ready to talk about your choices and about how they see your role in their choices. Most of all, be ready to love them just as they are.

You’ll note that none of this is religious – it’s cultural and familial. Much of Christmas is about family. And frankly, all of Judaism is inextricable tied to family.

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From the Maggie Semple blog

From the Maggie Semple blog

Here it comes, the holidays! The time that songs tell us is “the happiest time of the year.” Which raises the question, what makes us happy? American capitalist culture has a perpetual campaign to answer that question with THINGS! Things will make you happy! Cars, electronics, toys, whatever they are selling, THAT will make you happy. The trouble is, it doesn’t. Many people feel empty during or shortly after Christmas because it didn’t live up to the hype.

Did you know that there are universities around the country that now study happiness? UC Berkeley has a center, The Greater Good Science Center, that focuses on the things that make us happy – and it turns out much of what makes us happy is how we behave. People who express compassion, gratitude, and empathy are actually happier! People who have relationships – friends, a community – are happier. Being with others, doing things together, creates happiness. That means you are more likely to enjoy and remember serving food at a shelter or ice skating with your kids than what gifts you opened.

Here’s an interesting blog post, A Very Greedy Christmas on a fashion blog of all things, articulating the challenge of unwanted gifts and concluding that it’s those utterly unique gifts that are remembered. True, but we just can’t pull those off every year for everyone we know. So what can we pull off every year? It is possible to create and sustain rituals that make us happy. Like what, you ask. Like having a Games party with good friends or a latke making gathering with your favorite neighbors or cookie making day with your kids. There is something about winter that puts my family in the mood for games. Since they were little the approach of dark evenings signaled game nights galore!

Create a ritual, something you do every year; you’ll be surprised how meaningful it will become and how much those who share it with you will come to depend on it.

Posted by admin under A meaningful life, Chanukah, Children, Christmas, Relationships
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A friend of mine who is in an interfaith family recently told me, “I’m jealous of Christmas. My kids absolutely know they are Jewish but they LOVE Christmas and no Jewish holiday can touch it.”

It is true that there is nothing we can do about the massive marketing blitz that this country launches for the Christmas season. Garfield becomes Christmas Garfield, cars become Christmas cars, blenders become Christmas blenders. The entire world is transformed into a saleable object or moment. I’m not suggesting that you compete with this. Instead let’s think about what parts of it are good and which are bad.

Massive materialism isn’t good for anyone. Parents tell me that they want to raise their children with values other than greed and conspicuous consumption. So please, don’t go down the slippery slope of Christmas plus Hanukkah means more presents so our children are luckier; they get more! More? More what? More future landfill trinkets?

Studies show that it is human interaction that makes us happy, being with others whom we love or at least enjoy. Our strongest memories are those of experiences that have an emotional charge. So chances are you remember that surprise birthday party your friends gave you ten years ago but you don’t remember the presents they each gave you.

Now what about Christmas envy? Forget about competing in the world of presents, go for experience. There are Jewish holidays that are packed with fun but most Jews don’t know how to access them. In the words of Auntie Mame, “Life’s a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!” Sukkot, which begins tonight, wasn’t just A holiday in ancient times, it was THE holiday.* It was a week of harvest festival, community barbeques, huge communal meals, and I feel confident, some singing, dancing and drinking! What about the kids? We are commanded to build a ‘hut’ a temporary structure in which to live during the week. We are to eat our meals there and to sleep there. How would your kids like to have you build a little wooden structure in the yard, equip it with some chairs, a small table and in the evening, a sleeping bag? You can have a little fire in your patio fire pit and roast marshmallows! Sounds like a blast!

A huge part of the Christmas, and any holiday, is the anticipation and build up. With Sukkot there is the gathering of the building materials, the actual building (more fun when done with friends), and then there’s the decorating! My daughter and I are absolute suckers for crafts and decorations. We also love to add those little strings of lights.

So what to do about Christmas envy? Try offering some awesome Jewish experiences. I’m not saying they will replace Christmas, but you’ll probably feel happier to see your kids’ enthusiasm and anticipating for a Jewish holiday.

As for Christmas, if you celebrate it, work on making it about family over presents.

Note: I found this image (pile of gifts) on the blog of a financial planner writing about the Holiday Madness. Interestingly enough he’s in an interfaith marriage. Read his article here.

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Christmas is just about here and the last big build-up is upon us.

Here’s a good article about the Santa Claus issue — not from a religious standpoint, good for any parent raising kids in America.

A few words of advice
Whatever you do or don’t do for Christmas, make your peace with it now. Put on a happy face and don’t put a damper on your loved ones. If you are celebrating Christmas and it’s making you sad/mad/upset/annoyed or some other negative state of mind, remind yourself that you are doing this because someone you love wants this. Try to focus on the happiness you are providing them. Find good things to fill your thoughts – good food, good company, festive spirits. Remember how much you love these people and determine to make this a happy week for them.

Or maybe you are not having Christmas and that is making you blue. Again, you must be doing this because a person you love doesn’t want to have this event in your shared home. Focus on the love and comfort you are providing. Make a delicious dinner together; bake a winter treat. Light candles and sit in the candle light peacefully. Play some games you don’t usually get around to. Use December 25th to go for a walk in a wilderness area or out for dinner. Read aloud to each other.

Whatever you do, make sure that December 25 focuses on the love you share with your family and friends.

Then call me next week and we can discuss how to use this coming 12 months to retune next year’s December holidays.

I wish you happiness and love all around you. Remember that it is really the people you love that makes you rich. Go give them a long hug.

Shabbat Shalom,

p.s. It is not too late to make someone else’s holiday better. You can drop off food or a check at your local food bank.

Posted by admin under Christmas, Community Activities, Couples, Jewish Culture, Non-Jewish family
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christmas-lights on house

Perhaps you are raising your kids as Jews and you celebrate Christmas. Maybe you are still trying to find the right words to use to describe your decision to your kids, extended family or friends. I’m going to focus on the kids and what comes from this should work for adults. First, talk with your partner about why the two of you have decided to have Christmas. Be sure you have a shared understanding. It could be, Daddy/Mommy had Christmas when he/she was growing up and he/she wants to have it still. Just that simple.

Explain to your child(ren) that Parent Z (the Jewish parent) is Jewish and so are they. And Parent Q (the non-Jewish parent) isn’t Jewish and grew up doing what most Americans do, celebrate Christmas. If Parent Q is Christian you can say that Christmas is part of the religion they grew up with. Additionally, they loved – the tree, the lights, the music, fill in what is true. Now as a grownup Parent Q still wants to have Christmas very much so your family has Christmas together and it makes Parent Q happy.

If Parent Q had no religious elements to Christmas but simply celebrated it as an American Folkloric holiday you can describe the way that the holiday started out religious and took on lots of other parts – Santa Claus, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman. I would be frank about the fact that the American marketplace drives this exploding phenomenon. But I would hope you would add that for your family shopping and material things are not the focus. You love to be together, to do things for others (adopt a family through one of the social service offices), spend time playing games with Grandma or making cookies for the next door neighbor. Drive around and look at the lights on people’s houses and talk about how these are modern expressions of how people have always lit fires in the dark of winter. Tell stores that expand their understanding. Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a story written to encourage people to be kind to those less fortunate than themselves. Ever culture and religion teaches this through stories. You can ask your librarian to help you find morality tales from other cultures – like Mufaro’s Beautiful Daughters and Aesop’s Fables.

Let me know how you like to explain your chosen practice to your child.

Happy holidays!

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Answer: Eat & laugh!

Have you ever gone to Kung Pao Kosher? Give it a try.

Kung Pao Kosher Comedy
You are cordially invited to come celebrate the 20th Anniversary of Kung Pao Kosher Comedy™ – Jewish comedy on Christmas in a Chinese Restaurant (where else?)! Answering the age-old question, “What are Jews supposed to do on Christmas?” Sat, Dec 22 thru Tues, Dec 25. Two shows each day: Dinner: $64; Cocktail: $44. Headliner: Judy Gold (Two-Time Emmy winner; The View, Comedy Central). Also, Adrianne Tolsch (opened for The Pointer Sisters & Billy Crystal; Florida condo circuit maven), Mike Capozzola (San Francisco comic & cartoonist), and Lisa Geduldig (Kung Pao creator, producer, hostess). Partial proceeds benefit: The Brown Twins/JFCS Emergency Assistance Fund AND Bay Area Women’s & Children’s Center Drop-in Services & Food Pantry. It’s a family affair. Ages: teens and up (precocious 8 year olds are welcome). Fortune cookies with Yiddish proverbs! New Asia Restaurant in San Francisco Chinatown.
For more info and tickets: www.koshercomedy.com or call the box office at (925) 855-1986.

A little story about Kung Pao Kosher: A dear friend of mine has a multiracial family, but living in a primarily white world, Jewishly speaking, she didn’t expect there to be many others like hers. She buckled down and spent 30 years raiseing her own kids and made things work for her nieces, her adult African American kids, in-laws and grandkids. Her focus was always on her own family. After attending the multiracial Jewish panels last year, she said to me, “Dawn, there are so many Jews of color! I thought my family was alone.” She added, “In the past when I went to Kung Pao Kosher I thought it was interesting that there were so many Asians there who liked Jewish comedy. This year I thought, there are so many Asian Jews!”

Go laugh kosher, love kosher. Food – not kosher but delicious!

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from the Beth Emek E-letter

Many interfaith families find the month of December to be easier to manage with Christmas and Chanukah do not overlap. That way they can devote time to each holiday with the side of the family that celebrates it. But when, like this year, they are on top of each other the sorting out can be hard. Remember this, the majority of American families deal with trying to do THE SAME HOLIDAY (Christmas) with two families, or even more. Some suggestions:

1. Since Chanukah covers eight days, chose time before or after December 25th to spend with the Jewish family members. Give December 25 (or in some families, Dec. 24) to the other side of the family. (I hesitate to say the Christian side of the family because many of you have told me that you do not identity as Christian but you love Christmas as a family holiday.)

2. Accept that Chanukah is neither a national holiday nor a significant Jewish holiday and let it be low key. Just light the candles as many evenings as you can manage and promise yourself to make a bigger deal of another Jewish holiday.

3. Experiencing angst, depression or conflict? Feel free to call me. You can also simply get through this year and we can discuss making next year better during the religiously neutral months of January or February.

4. Go away for the holidays. A significant number of families tell me that they avoid the issue by taking a skiing vacation or a tropical vacation. The vacation is their gift to each other – no cooking, no house cleaning, no office.

Share your solutions with me and I’ll send them out to everyone. If you have something that works, please, offer it to others.

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Welcome to 2011! I sure hope this year brings greater prosperity to the entire world.

This time of year a lot of folks make new year’s resolutions. Let me suggest a few resolutions –
1. If Christmas was hard, agree to discuss and work on it NOW while you have 11 months before you have to do anything about it.
2. If there are religious/cultural issues that you find are coming up over and over again, contact me. Consider participating in a couples discussion group.
3. Decide to learn something new! Do it together. Take a class, create a monthly date night, read to each other. You’ll be glad you took the time.

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