Santa Claus Had The Right Idea. Visit People Only Once A Year. (Victor Borge)
When I was growing up multiculturalism was still very much in the shadows. Politically correct meant voting for the appropriate political party. People weren’t expected or encouraged to be particularly tolerant of the other. Employers were quite free to ask potential employees what religion they practiced. My mother experienced this line of questioning first-hand when Westinghouse Electric Corporation balked at the notion of hiring a secretary with exceptional typing skills simply because she was of the Hebrew persuasion. My mother never forgot that insult and refused thereafter to purchase a Westinghouse product, even one that was substantially discounted – she singlehandedly waged her own personal BDS campaign.
Raised as a faithful member of the Hebrew tribe, I was acutely aware, even at a young age, that ours was not the only game in town. Come December it was pretty hard to ignore the impending arrival of Christmas even though Chanukkah lasted an amazing eight days. With all the pervasive hoopla surrounding us, I don’t ever recall feeling inferior to or envious of my childhood friends simply because they celebrated Christmas. That would probably explain why my mother did not consider it a faith-challenging experience for me to visit Santa in the flesh at one of Hamilton’s downtown department stores – the prospect of meeting a grownup who promised to fulfill your every wish had to be a win-win situation.
As much as I would like to think that I asked for something as lofty as world peace, it is more than likely that at four years of age I asked for something much more practical like an electric train set. Judging by the above photograph, I should have asked for a new hairstyle. Like most well adjusted children I outgrew my fascination with old Kris Kringle as soon as it was apparent that he had no intention of delivering the goods. I have since suffered few traumatic scars from my very brief encounter with the other.
Perhaps that is why I was intrigued by a recent headline posted on the Times of Israel: Far-right Israeli group declares war on Christmas. That immediately struck me as an odd turn of events. Was this group intent on a long drawn-out campaign or merely a brief skirmish? Did this mean that Santa was now fair game? Somebody should brief these harbingers of doom that Christmas has been around for quite some time now, and it is highly unlikely that it is about to disappear anytime soon. Far be it for me to trivialize the serious threats of assimilation and proselytization, but according to the article the primary target of this group’s staged protest was the Jerusalem YMCA. The YMCA? Seriously? Most of my boys learned how to swim in that historic building and none of them seems the worse for their experiences.
Sadly, I can’t say that I am all that shocked by the intolerant sentiments peddled by these extremists. We live in such highly charged and polarized times I sincerely doubt that Santa himself would be warmly received on many of today’s university campuses across America. The mere sight of his hefty girth may prove too traumatic for those battling with weight issues, not to mention that the presence of such a jovial spirit could be stressful for students coping with personality disorders.
Maybe I am old-fashioned. Maybe I am naive. Okay, so I am old-fashioned and I am naive, but at least I’m not knowingly paranoid, certainly not when it comes to the other. I’m secure enough in my beliefs not to be threatened by an annual dose of multiculturalism. When Groucho Marx was once asked if he had a Christmas tree as a child he answered: “No, I had a branch.” We don’t need to celebrate Christmas but at the same time we shouldn’t pretend that it doesn’t exist. Make no mistake, there is no shortage of important battles to be waged these days, I just have serious reservations whether Christmas is one of them.
Personally I have no regrets that I got the chance to sit on Santa’s lap. Children rarely get the opportunity to meet an adult who spends most of his day just being jolly. I never did get that train set, but I am happy to report that I am still in possession of most of my hair.
Hope you still have those boots too!!
We grew up with a ‘Chanukah Man’ who somehow delivered presents invisibly to our apt. door. Once I was a bit more worldly (probably after age 20) I realized he really did not exist and discovered that the gift deliverers (on behalf of my dear parents) were actually our very, very frum neighbors down the hall. So if they could stomach the tradition, there ain’t nothing wrong with a bit of Santa in all our lives.
Enjoy and regards,