I don’t celebrate Christmas. Even so, I do not have a problem when people cheerfully say “Merry Christmas” to me. Of course, this greeting may not apply to people who are not Christian and for whom Christmas Day, other than being a day off from work, may be just like any other. In that case, we have the all purpose “Happy Holidays” which I like, and also “Joyous Kwanzaa” for African-Americans. I always look forward to December 25th as a delicious day. It is a day without responsibilities, with nowhere to go and nothing to do. A day to catch up on laundry, watch old movies in my pajamas, or read a good book while curled up in a chair.
Yet, there is something special about this time of year. Each day during December, we receive mail from various charities seeking money to fund their activities. Every cause needs help: the birds, the bees, the bats (Larry says that bats need friends too), women, children, museums and public TV, cancer research and historic homes. We get phone calls requesting monthly contributions. With the incoming presidential administration, many charitable organizations are nervous about prospects for their causes. I have a hard time saying no to these requests. After all, we have food and health insurance; we have well cared for pets and a warm home. Who am I to hold on to my money when so many others are needy?
Each religion has a concept for this. Christianity, Islam, Judaism, and others, all believe in doing charitable works. In Hebrew the word is “tzedakah.” It means that we each have responsibilities: to be charitable, to support those less well off, to assist the needy. Tzedakah is not considered generosity. It is more about the performance of a duty, doing what is fair and just for the common good. I have enough to live on, therefore, I give of myself. It is simply the right thing to do. I like this concept and feel very fortunate that I am able to support charitable acts.
This has been a tough year for many. In Syria we watched helplessly as thousands were trapped in their homes when artillery shells and bombs were dropped upon them. In Iraq, a different battle is taking place in the city of Mosul. Just as much blood is being shed. We Americans endured our own pain after the shootings at Pulse nightclub in Orlando. As a nation we struggle with the issue of police behavior and racially-charged brutality, over all. At the end of the year, we witnessed Native Americans in North Dakota take a stand against big energy corporations that seek to construct oil pipelines on tribal lands. In an election year that divided us deeply, we now hope we can come back together again. As one people. Sometimes, it felt as if 2016 was nothing but one ongoing trauma.
And so I circle back to the holiday season. We do not all agree on how, whether, or when to celebrate, or even if we have anything to celebrate at all. At our house we don’t have gifts or a tree or decorations. Just a simple menorah. What we have is so much more fundamental. We end the year with optimism for our family and our country and our world. We hope for a better time for all, especially for those who suffered so much in 2016. We wish you health and joy and peace.
Happy Holidays to you all, whatever and whenever you celebrate!!