Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Another Reason to Be Happy to Be a Hebrew

Around the X-mas season, I see the stress and pressure people have to buy personally-specific disposable consumer items for every acquaintance who they don't want to anger. And they write mass-Xmas messages about their whole family, with pictures, and then send those (or similar cards) to everyone they know. If they do neither, they will also incur wrath. Then they need to get together with the whole family in the depth of winter. There's a much higher suicide rate at this time of year as a result of all this family induced, 'friend' emphasized pressure.

What interesting is not that they have these things and we Hebrews don't. We have them all too except (a) spread out over the year, and (b) much less impact, (c) much less selfish/wasteful.

#x = XMAS

The Comparison

1x. Xmas Trees = wrestling with a stinky, sticky foliage; bringing it indoors and letting it shed needles all over; decorating the tree with lights and fragile items; waiting for weeks after the holiday to take it down.

1J. Sukkot - here the foliage structure is outdoors and in the rainy cold autumn. It's the closest that a Jew feels 'goyish' insofar that we all have to build something; the annual visit to Home Depot is the most goyish thing I do all year. The same decorations used for Thanksgiving (fruit, gourds) & Xmas (lights, tinsel, santa clauses inked in black) are used for the Sukkah. There's also indoor foliage - the arba minim - but the smells of that - Etrog, Hadas - are usually good (except if you left your lulav in its holder from last year - that's a bad stink). Same danger of being stuck although Xmas trees give lighter wounds than the ornery palm fronds.

2x. Gift giving to every person you know, which involves an enormous expenditure as well as the stress of trying to think of non-insulting gifts (something they like? something they won't hate? something that they can't use against me in armed combat?), and the stress of making sure that everyone is remembered.

2J. No one-time equivalent. Each component is present thusly:
  1. Gift giving = barely on Hanukkah, and only for the more secularly inclined.

  2. Enormous expenditure = Passover is the closest equivalent, either for food & cleaning or for taking the whole family away to a Pesach resort. But here the spending is focused on practical matters (well, I think going away for Pesach is baal tashchit, but whatever) - i.e. food and entertaining. OK, after Pesach, when you have thirteen leftover boxes of Celery Flavored Crispy-Os, it feels like a waste of money - but how would you have known that little Mendele would hate the cereal (he liked it last year!). But that pales in comparison to buying singing fish to your 13 co-workers.

  3. Making sure you remember everyone or they'll hate you = isolated for major/minor simchas. It's the same stress, I believe, but instead of every year, it's only for the bar/bat mitzvahs and weddings (and, yeah, if you're very frum that could be every year, but whatever).

3x. Sending Xmas cards with updates to everyone (or they'll hate you)

3j. People do this around the "high holidays" but (a) it's also, I think, more for the secularly inclined, (b) mainly women to women, (c) and not everyone does it - it's totally not expected.

4x. Whole Family congregating - creating strife for all involved (and the suicide watch for those without family)

4j. Ironically the only thing that comes close is Thanksgiving. Because all the other holidays have an issur melakha which means that not everyone can come at once. I guess the simchas could be the other equivalent (see above).

So, as you can see, while we do have the negatives of this holiday, the stress and expense is spread out over time.

As for the positives? Well, I'm on record that every positive associated with the celebration of Xmas (holding aside the weird virgin birth mythology) can be found better and more frequently on an ordinary frum Shabbas.

What do people like about Xmas? (1) family getting together, (2) big meal, (3) presents, (4) Xmas carols, (5) Xmas decorations/lights

And Shabbas, every Shabbas: (1) family meal together, (2) cholent, (3) no specific gift giving but many people make extra special things for Shabbas, whether it's flowers, special jewelry, etc. In our house it's Shabbas cereal and gleeder; (4) zemirot, (5) neirot, clean linens, the good silverware.

Pic from here.

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