Wednesday, December 20, 2006

December Display Debacles

It seems that in almost every year in recent memory, there has been some sort of debate regarding a December Holiday Display or activity of one sort or another. There are many sides to these debates - Jews who are denied the right to put up a menorah on public property, or (specifically so this year) overzealous government officials who deny any kind of display in the hopes of not excluding anyone (so they exclude everyone - bright idea).

While, by and large, America is a Christian Country, we still need to acknowledge that the American experience has been shaped by a myriad of religions and traditions. 50 years ago, a menorah in a public place was almost unheard of outside of New York. Now, thanks primarily to Chabad, as well as other Jewish organizations, almost any city where even the smallest of communities exists, there is a public menorah as well. While Christmas is still the crux of the Holiday season, Kwanzaa and Chanukah get more and more mentions every year - not just in the media, but in the popular culture as well.

While I've started to ramble, I do have a point, and that is this - let's stop being secular for the sake of secularity. A Christmas tree, in name and indeed, is a religious article (if it was called the Holiday Evergreen, it would be a different story). Let's just light our Menorahs, Trees, and Kwanzaa candles all in the town square and invite our neighbors to participate. And for as long as Ramadan falls out during this time of year*, let's do it at night, so that we can have one big party and invite our Muslim neighbors to break their fast with us.

I don't think anyone will argue that the true spirit of the Holiday season is sharing with our friends and neighbors - so let everyone display their own decorations and let us all explore each others' customs.

*Like the Jewish Calendar, the Islamic Calendar is tied to the phases of the moon, however, unlike the Jewish calendar, which introduces 13-month leap years to synchronize our holidays to seasons and the solar year, the Islamic calendar does not. Therefore, Muslim Holidays shift by a few days each year.

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