I write this message inspired by a recent trip to New York. Manhattan specifically – for those even more curious – mid-town. As the Hanukkah season approaches, we also find ourselves in the Christmas season. It is not our holiday for obvious reasons but is there something to consider here?
I bring this up observing my fellow man (and woman) excitedly awaiting the tree lighting ceremony in Rockefeller Center. I met a couple who flew to New York from Italy that week specifically to start their NY vacation off seeing that tree get lit. As is the vogue these days, security was very tight – while I did not feel unsafe there was no question that the NYPD was well prepared for this big event. It was clear to me that whether Christmas was a big or small factor in a particular person’s life the idea of the lighting ceremony was a big deal.
And a big event it was, as one of my sons would likely say – totally overwhelming Hanukkah and anything we will do this winter…
As I left the Rockefeller tree and walked to Fifth Avenue, my son’s words rang in my ears. Those words were somewhat juxtaposed against a familiar winter feeling arising within me. Not so much a specific Christmas feeling, rather a lightening of the spirit as I saw happy faces and friends meeting in front of the flagship Saks Fifth Avenue store. I thought about how we share the Earth, share these spaces and can share in common happiness without adopting false rituals. Said another way, we can draw positive energy from the spirit of the overall season without giving up our identity (or as my son would say, being steamrolled).
I try to take the overwhelming messages of the season and consider the positive energy they bring to celebrants of all stripes. Rather than be angry at being given short shrift, I delight at spying the rare Hanukkah item or decoration. I explain my holiday plans, helping everyone understand there is a world bigger than they are out there.
This message is not meant to compare Hanukkah and Christmas, as we know they are not at all alike besides which we could fill another issue with Hanukkah analysis alone. Rather, as we whether in New York or Kenosha have the season “wash over us” as it is wont to do – we can educate others on what makes Hanukkah important and special to us as well as be happy we all can smile and seek friendship together as people over the winter season, regardless of what holiday we go home to celebrate.
A Happy Hanukkah to you and your family, and may the BHT community have a healthy & prosperous 2016.