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The Holiday Season

Next Monday, of course, is Christmas. If you're celebrating Christmas, may you have a merry one, full of happiness.

It's also Isaac Newton's birthday, something I always like to commemorate given my background in Physics.

And tonight is the last night of Chanukah. Let's take each of these in turn.



Christmas:
Being Jewish, of course, I don't really observe or celebrate Christmas. But in Jewish families, especially those living in New York City, there's a long-standing Christmas tradition of going out to the movies and eating Chinese food. Nomi and I actually plan to be at the Jewish Museum in NYC on Monday, and for food we're probably going to go to their cafeteria for lunch and then go to a deli for dinner. So if any other Jewish folk out there are having Chinese food on Monday, can we be yotzei on you?

(For more information, see Judaism 101: What Do Jews Do on Christmas?)


Isaac Newton's Birthday:
I always enjoyed noting the concurrence of Newton's birthday with Christmas. Newton was born in 1642 to a widow whose husband had died just a few months before. And Newton grew up to alter the way we view the world. A few years ago, when the listeners to BBC Radio 4 were choosing the most important British man of the millennium, it came down to Newton and Shakespeare. (Shakespeare won, but it was apparently a tough call.) I'm not the only one who enjoys the story of Newton being born on Christmas -- see Isaac Newton's Life: A Christmas Story by Cynthia Bass (Scripps Howard News Service, 1988) for some details on his life and the appropriateness of his birthday.


Chanukah:
Tonight is the last night of Chanukah, the Jewish festival of lights, which commemorates a military victory over King Antiochus IV, who was attempting to assimilate and oppress the Jewish people. A lot of Christians tend to equate Chanukah with Christmas, since they take place around the same time, but the truth is that the holidays have nothing to do with each other. In fact, from a religious perspective Chanukah is a relatively minor holiday compared to the holidays of Sukkot, Pesach (Passover), and Shavuot, since those three are festivals mentioned in the Bible and Chanukah was established in rabbinic times. Because of this, I always feel odd when people want to wish me happy Chanukah during the Christmas season, because just two months ago most of those people weren't thinking of wishing me a happy Sukkot. Still, I understand the impulse to wish someone a good holiday, and I would never think of turning down such good wishes. (Or cards. Or presents, if anyone wants to check out my Amazon.com wish list. :-) )

(For information on what Chanukah is all about, see Judaism 101: Chanukah.)


So that's it. To all my Christian friends, as I said before, may you have a merry and joyous Christmas. To all my Jewish friends, may you have a happy Chanukah. To all my friends who celebrate some other holiday of the season, may it be for good. And for those of my friends who celebrate no holiday at all, may you enjoy a good start to the Gregorian New Year of 2007.

Comments

My family tradition used to be to go skiing on December 25th, until the local non-Jews got less frum and started showing up to ski then, too :-).
...until the local non-Jews got less frum...

::chuckle::

And a happy Chanukah and new year to you and Nomi. As I implied in an earlier post of yours, I wish I could join you at the Jewish Museum. That sounds like so much fun. But I'll be there with you in spirit anyway. Have a wonderful day!
Which is appropriate given that the Spirit is in the show.
Gregorian New Year? So called, I guess, because we will see what happens. :)
Okay, I'm sure there's a joke here, but I'm missing it...
You've never read the Vorkosigan books?

If you haven't, please go and do so now! (It's something a character named Gregor says.)

And if you have, I hope i've jogged your memory.

Oooooh, I like that...
Have a happy Chanukah.

And thanks for the links to Judaish 101. It gives perspective on my own religion, founded by traditional Jews, who may not have felt it necessary to explain. For instance, I never quite understood how resurrection fit in with the afterlife.
Judaism 101 is an excellent starting site for information, and I'm always glad to link to it.

One of the things to keep in mind about the resurrection is that not every Jewish person necessarily believes in it. Even those who do tend to think of it as something that will happen eventually, but not as the focus of the religion.

However, the basic idea as I understand it is that when the messiah comes, the world-to-come will be established and people will be resurrected. But again, it's not necessarily going to be that way; we're not entirely sure what the world-to-come is supposed to entail. This is just one idea of many.
I really appreciate that about Judaism--it's the life now that we are to focus on. Even a little mention of the life to come can distract from the big picture.

I find it agrees with some of my own conclusions (possibly false, of course)--God is without gender, etc.
We are indeed. In fact, we planned a NYC trip in such a way as to make sure that we could get to the exhibit.

Sadly, though, we won't be able to see the part in Newark. Them's the breaks.
I thought December 25th was "National Jews Go to the Movies Day". At least, that's what the Daily Show told me.
Movies and Chinese food. It's tradition!
I thought that I might need to work Christmas because my vacation time for 2006 was negative 1/2 day. But they are letting me dip into 2007 vacation (without sacrificing 1 day for Arisia and 2 days for Boskone!)

I may go to see a movie, probably Stranger Than Fiction, but I also noticed that PotC I is on TV Monday night and some how I totally missed seeing that when it was in the theaters!

I remember several years ago when going to a movie on Christmas Day that the audience was mostly Jewish, but they still had the Christmas Muzak in all of the theaters. :-)

Happy Chanukah and enjoy New York!
I recommend Stranger Than Fiction; we enjoyed it muchly.

My biggest memory of a Christmas day movie was seeing I.Q. the day it opened. I went with my Mom to the theatre in Queens, and the manager of the theatre himself wished the audience Merry Christmas before it began. Needless to say, the vast majority of the audience were Jews, but the sentiment was appreciated.
It'd make more sense for non Jews to be more interested in helping promote Passover, because it's so interwined with the Christian Easter (one can't happen without the other). But instead, we kind of ignore it. And try to make Chanukah into "the Jewish Christmas" because deep down, secretly, we'd (Christians, really)rather focus on cute babies and getting presents than on the holidays which not only celebrate the moment when our faith *became* our faith but also force us to think about how we're connected to Judaism.
See, I wouldn't know to have wished anyone a Happy Sukkot (and still would fear doing so) until this thread. But I was taught Chanukah in elementary school. Just like I was taught Christmas (being an agnostic I thought Christmas was about pine trees & family, not yanno...). I do try to remember to wish a thoughtful Passover (and offered to buy a friend's chametz this year), but really that has only been because of recent friendship with you & other Jewish friends. I think that rather than feeling odd that people aren't honoring all your holy days, be happy that they are at least trying to honor one. We self-absorbed humans are somewhat silly that way.

Zhaneel
I think that rather than feeling odd that people aren't honoring all your holy days, be happy that they are at least trying to honor one. We self-absorbed humans are somewhat silly that way.

As I said above, "Still, I understand the impulse to wish someone a good holiday, and I would never think of turning down such good wishes."

The issue comes more into play when fellow Jews who are non-observant are surprised about the existence of Sukkot and other such holidays. An observant friend of mine had to defend his actions to his supervisor once, who was a non-observant Jew. The supervisor was surprised that my friend was working on Chanukah because he had insisted on taking days off for work for something as "minor" as Sukkot.
That makes a lot more sense. I found out way late that my boss at work is Jewish, but she isn't very observant and almost didn't make it home in time to light the candles for the first night of Chanukah.

Zhaneel
Many thanks, Michael, and here's hoping you have a good holiday as well.
Friday was our last day of work until January 2, and various co-workers (who know I'm Jewish) were wishing me "happy um... holiday(s)?" on Friday. I responded that I would happily enjoy 10 days off from work, so in that sense "happy holidays [from work]" was perfectly acceptable. *g*
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