Thursday, 20 December 2007

Something PC about Christmas

I am Jewish, grew up in a liberal, multi-cultural town outisde New York where at some point in my young school career, Christmas vacation became winter vacation, Easter vacation became Spring vacation, and all Christmas songs in music class were countered with Hannukah songs. I remember my music teacher Ms. Chisholm (who I still thank for teaching us Lift Every Voice and Sing at the tender age of 6) teaching us a song that went something like Winter holiday lala candles for Christmas candles for Hannukah.

So living in Europe, married to a 2nd generation atheist and a self-declared cultural Jew myself with such a loaded background, I still have to keep that offended, excluded, political correctness monster from rearing its ugly head when everyone wishes me a Merry Christmas or gives me a Christmas present or puts Santa Claus climbing up their house (for some reason, here in the North, there are santas hanging out people's windows, from balconies everywhere to such an extent it looks like there's a band of Santa cat burglers running around).

Case and point: my new boss is Dutch and knows how to treat his staff right, kind of like an American boss except with a funny accent. He gave us each a bottle of champagne to thank us for our work this year. And he also bought a fresh tree for the office. A few years ago when we had a Christmas party, I fought. I said I didn't celebrate it, was offended, yada yada. But the longer I am in France, the more I realize that Christmas isn't Jesus and Mary and angels like it is in the US (and shopping of course!); Christmas in France is like Thanksgiving to Americans. It's a happy time of year where everyone, no matter race nor religion nor creed nor whatevever, gets together with their family to celebrate just that. It's a family celebration. So I will appreciate the tree for its beauty and I will celebrate Christmas with my in-laws and I will not let the political correctness monster ruin the family spirit. Sometimes you have to look past being PC so you can be happy.

7 comments:

wcs said...

By george, I think you've got it. The French have a much more sane approach to the whole thing. And you seem to, as well.

Bonnes fêtes de fin d'année. Happy Solstice. Etc.

Madame K said...

This post made me realise that the reason I enjoy French Christmas so much more than American Christmas is precisely because it's more of a cultural holiday than a religious holiday.

Nobody here sits around talking about the birth of Baby Jesus, in fact most people who celebrate Christmas here in France don't even believe in Jesus.

Interesting.

L said...

I grew up in a non-religious family with lots of Jewish friends and neighbors, and sometimes the Catholic-ness of everything bothers me too. What's with announcing the saints at the end of the weather report? (B says the people with that name just get to feel special and it doesn't mean anything more than that) I was also shocked to find out that my brother-in-law's girlfriend was the first Jew that my in-laws have ever known. My MIL started stressing about the ingredients in every dish when she found out the girlfriend doesn't eat pork. B didn't even know that Jews don't celebrate Christmas. He just took it at as a given that everyone does. I started to get mad at him for his cultural insensitivity, but then I realized it's not his fault. I learned about Hannukah when I was 4 and our new neighbors were Jewish, but I think Christmas in France is like les bises: they don't know any other way and don't understand that it's not the same everywhere else. That being said, I find the French lacking in holiday spirit. I'm the only one interested in holiday foods and decorations and music. For the prevalence of everything Christmas, the actual celebration with my in-laws is no different from any other big family get-together. Btw, are there reformed Jews in France? I heard that almost all Jews here were Orthodox. But maybe someone mis-informed me.

The Late Bloomer said...

Yes, I like the fact that "Christmas" here is more of a family celebration as well, but I must admit that the old-fashioned part of me does miss the carols and the stuff we used to do in my family growing up. But I did come from a Christian background, so it's something I was used to. I do like that in general here people simply wish you "bonnes fêtes de fin d'année" and don't necessarily always say Joyeux Noël -- I know it's important to be sensitive about that.

Bonnes fêtes, en tout cas, et Bonne Année 2008 !

Elisabeth said...

Very well put. A lovely post. Thanks!

Reb said...

Thanks for all your comments everyone. And Happy Holidays!

Sarah said...

When I lived in Alsace, I absolutely loved the "marche de Noel" in the town center--all these stands selling crafts, gingerbread, mulled wine, everything lit up in the darkness and the chill. That was my favorite part of Christmas in France--and now that I think about it, almost completely secular (even though these Christmas markets tend to be located in front of the biggest church in town).

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...