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A Celebration of Light

For parents, holidays provide one teachable moment after another, and by New Year’s, most of us are tired of learning experiences almost as much as turkey.

Like most, my children are captivated by Christmas lights. They marvel at dazzling colors and illuminated figures adorning our neighbors’ front yards. The holidays truly are for kids; only a child could look up at a 10-foot Homer Simpson/Santa Claus balloon – bright enough to be visible from the moon – and smile. Several years ago, my kids were only beginning to understand the meaning behind such sights.

I remember driving home from pre-school one afternoon when my then 4-year old asked,

“Mommy, why don’t we have lights on our house?”

Without missing a beat, his twin brother said, “Jacob, we’re Jewish.”

Jacob wasn’t satisfied.

“Zachary,” he said, “Chanukah is about lights.”

Zachary looked at me as if to say, “Mom, the kid has a point.”

He may have had a point, but nothing brings out the bah-humbug mood like non-Christians hanging up Christmas decorations. It’s not that I don’t understand the pressure to conform; I do. Our current suburban experience separates religious and ethnic minorities who long to feel connected to their communities. Assimilation is inviting, and it takes a good deal of inner strength to go it alone.

Is that reason to give in and join the crowd?

Some would argue that commercial aspects of the season – presents, lights, trees – don’t connect with the spiritual. I’m not buying it. These symbols belong to Christmas. Pretending otherwise attempts to secularize what is, at its core, a holy day for millions of Americans.

I wonder about my Christian neighbors. How do they feel when nonbelievers – atheists, agnostics, Jews, Muslims, etc. – align themselves with a faith they don’t share? Doesn’t it cheapen the meaning for everyone?

A trend toward blending Chanukah and Christmas is also blossoming. Some even send cards wishing people “Merry Chanumas.” Christians and Jews coming together is heartening; however, when holidays are blended, they’re lost. Why destroy two distinct and beautiful traditions to create a new one devoid of spiritual meaning?

As my children get older, they are proud of their unique traditions and appreciate those differences in others. Last Tuesday night, I placed a lighted menorah in our front window. This is our traditional way of remembering the miracle of Chanukah while participating in the season around us. Jacob and Zachary know it’s not the same as a lawn full of lights.

And perhaps that’s the point.

Guest blogger Catherine Robinson can also be found at her blog, Out in Left Field.

Mile High Mamas
Author: Mile High Mamas

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  1. Interesting perspective, Catherine and I could not agree with you more. By blending traditions, it seems they are diluted or lost!

  2. I think that is the key: when they get older they start seeing and appreciating their own beliefs and traditions.

  3. P.S. Interesting post!

  4. Chanumas… I don’t know whether to laugh or cringe. I would rather the card just say Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah.

    I do have to disagree about the lights, though. Around here we don’t consider Christmas decorations to be Christian specific unless there is a star, nativity, or other Christian symbol. There just aren’t that many Christians around here (but lots of lights). And my very staunch athiest aunt sends out Christmas cards every year. It doesn’t bother me but that is because I consider faith/religion a way to live your life, and not dependant on outside appearances (decorations). It does bother my husband, though, so I see your point.

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