I almost succeeded in completely ignoring Xmas this year and I am grateful to immigrants for this bliss. Before large groups of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists came here en masse, this place was truly a Christian country. Yes, there existed a meager six percent minority of Jews and a few Buddhist Chinese around in the fifties and sixties while I was growing up. We were thankful to those who kept their restaurants open on that fateful day. Beyond that, there were few dissenting voices within earshot.
My Jewish parents made the decision to bring secular Christmas to my sister and me. We had a Chanukah bush that looked and smelled deceptively like a Christmas tree. We lit candles on the menorah perfunctorily. And, like other Americans celebrated on the 25th. The reason for this was that my parents, like so many Jews, had just felt odd and left out on that day. They wanted their children to be more part of this country’s culture. Why not indulge in some harmless trees, ornaments, lights, reindeers and Santa. American Christmas really has very little to do with old J. C. and besides that, it was fun.
It’s true, secular-Jewish Xmas did make me love the holiday season. But today, something makes me even happier this time of year. It is the fact that many new immigrants do not make these concessions at all! The motel my friends and I stayed in near Monterey California is owned by East Indians. Our small coterie of wandering Jews stayed there right through that holiday with neither a decoration nor a single mention from the very diverse group having coffee and waffles on Christmas day. To me, that was a gift of unbelievable magnitude and spirit.
So keep on coming Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus and even, goddess forbid, other Jews. We are broadening the spiritual scope of this country. And I love it!