Top of the evening to all...
When Jennifer and I lived in New York City, I loved the Christmas season. The smell of pine, of fir, and of spruce wafted through the air from all of the trees piled up in front of the stores. People were generally of pleasant disposition. We would walk down 5th Avenue and see how all of the windows were decorated. We wandered into Rockefeller Center (US location, US spelling) to see the tree. We never got to be part of the annual singing of Handel's "Messiah," but I wish we had.
I will tell you further that I absolutely love "Carol of the Bells." As well, we played a remarkably Christian piece in high school band called "La Marche des Rois." I still hum the piece from time to time.
We lived in North Carolina for a couple of years, a place a colleague called the "buckle of the Bible Belt." I got a little X-mased out. I even rewrote "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer" to be "Rudolph the Kosher Reindeer." It does not end well for the reindeer.
Nowadays, I am watching the atheist groups of the world try and shut out religion from virtually every corner of public life. I am not impressed. As they attempt this, I have also begun to rethink my own opinions.
I am a Jew. I light a hannukiyah. I celebrate Pesach. I build a sukkah. The list goes on. I live in Toronto, a city in which 80 languages are spoken on a daily basis. If we were to speak of theological languages, the number would be much higher.
I fully support placing a Christmas tree at Queen's Park, on Parliament Hill, at the White House, and on virtually every other piece of public property in the world. I also have no issue with a manger. I believe that all of these places should also have a hannukiyah and a sukkah at the proper times.
This is not a statement of communal support of one faith to the exclusion of others, or of faith in general to the exclusion of atheism. It is a reminder that we speak 80 languages in our home city. It is a reminder that we should share in each other's happiness as a community. It is a reminder that even though some people do not care about Christmas, some other people might. I share in their joy. Please, offer me a cup of egg nog. I will say a b'rakhah (blessing) on it, and share a toast with you. I invite you to share in my joy. As for all of these public places, they share in our joy communally. They remind us that we live together as neighbours despite our differences. They should remind all of us that Queen's Park, Parliament Hill, and the White House should not be places that are only about politics. They are about people, and should not be devoid of the symbols that people find important.
On an aside, the sukkah is a much more potent Jewish symbol. Hannukah does not hold a candle to Christmas in terms of deeper meaning of the holiday to the respective faith groups (pun intented). A communal hannukiyah is wonderful, but I would much prefer to see a communal sukkah.
To my Christian friends out there, I wish you all of the joy and holiness Christmas should bring you. And if you wish me a Merry Christmas because you do not immediately recognize me as Jewish, thank you for the sentiment, even if I cannot enjoy the holiday.