Them (cashiers, mostly) : What are you doing for Christmas?
Me : Probably seeing a movie and eating Chinese food. Why, what do you do?”
Them : blink blink
Me : Have a nice day!
A little snarky, perhaps, but it’s still astounding to me that people don’t realize/care that not everyone celebrates Christmas and while I use to just smile and nod, this year I experimented with a variation on the above dialogue. Not to be a brat, not to make the person uncomfortable, but to brush (okay, push) against the Christian hegemony that is the Pacific Northwest, a place where folks are said to be the “least religious”. I’m not even sure if that’s a thing, but it’s what folks say about the PNW.
Here, even more than in New York, it seems necessary to disrupt folk’s idea of who a Jew is and is not. Who celebrates Christian holidays and who does not. For instance, a sigh of relief when the cashier at my local pagan store wished me “Season’s greetings”, because in this season there isn’t just one holiday, there are almost a dozen being celebrated. Holidays focused on bringing in light; Hanukkah, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Yule, Solstice and yes, Christmas (to name but a few). And though it may seem that I’m putting a fence around all of us light-celebrating festive celebrators, I’m not. In fact, being in the PNW has helped me really lean back into the roots of curiosity that drew me away from Christianity more than a decade ago, the exploring of the roots of us all we find the things that make us more similar.
This past Shabbat happened to coincide with the end of Yule, the Winter Solstice and the Cold Moon. When I went digging, it didn’t take long for me to find similarities to these light festivals between Judaism and paganism (y’all know I love Judaism’s unabashed appreciation for our pagan and agricultural roots - hello, Sukkot!). It felt good and natural to start Shabbat with the burning of things that no longer serve us. It felt natural to illuminate the lights of Shabbat (and other candles/lights). It felt natural to set intentions and deepen relationships with ourselves as we hunker down in these coldest months of the year. It also felt natural to think about the seeds we’re planting, intentions we’re setting and goals we hope to accomplish as the days get longer and the nights grow shorter.
There is a lovely merging of things. Ideas. Practices between faiths that are really easy to find if you take a moment to look for them. It is there, I believe, that we’ll do the good work our faiths intend for us.
So happy light making holidays, my friends. I hope your Christmas is merry.
P.S- Just a reminder that if you believe the story we tell about December 25th you’ll remember that Jesus’ parents were brown refugees fleeing persecution.