As a Jew, you wouldn’t expect me to write too much regarding Christmas. Nowadays, it’s not unusual for people to weigh in, as being either extremely or slightly vexed with the way Christmas has become commercialized over the years, or perhaps they are still happy with what it symbolizes and what it means on a personal level, spiritually or otherwise.
I have few Christmas memories to draw upon, besides whatever Christmas specials I might have seen on TV growing up, or with the annual lingering in front of the famous window display at Ogilvy’s at the corner of Mountain and Saint-Catherine Streets, or the carols we sang in Elementary school, even though most of my fellow classmates were Jewish.
Today, I work in a largely Anglo and Jewish environment. Decarie Square borders two large Jewish communities – Hampstead/Cote-Saint-Luc and the Lubavitch Community bordering the eastern edge of Decarie Boulevard south of Côte-Saint-Catherine Street. Still, walking around Decarie Square at lunch hour, it’s not unusual to see many members of the visible ethnic community walking about: Muslim women wearing their hijabs while pushing strollers, Black immigrants with their little ones (there’s a very busy medical centre catering to children among the third-floor offices, where I work as well). One can see brown-skinned people from all over the world and hear many foreign languages among the people who frequent the mall.
Despite the grumblings over the commercialization of Christmas, my guess is that the majority of Christian customers and workers around here still hold a warm feeling about the holiday. It’s commonly believed that in non-Western nations Christmas still holds a more traditional place in the hearts of the people and is less commercialized.
These are all non-scientific observations, so what does, you might ask, Christmas have to do with me?
These days, when I arrive at the mall in the morning, I am now greeted by a steady stream of Christmas music. At other times of the year, to my constant consternation, I have been forced to listen to a non-stop parade of what I would call ‘offensive pop music’ (how much Whitney Huston can one take anyway?). But as soon as I hear the Christmas music I relax in an indelible fashion. What is it about Christmas music (The Drummer Boy aside), including but not limited to Christmas carols, that I like so much? Is it the melodies or something more subtle – the deep enjoyment that people have in singing these songs, magically transmitted to me? Maybe both.
I’m not saying that I could begin tuning into that Vermont radio station which plays Christmas music non-stop from Thanksgiving through January. I like the music, but like everything, in moderation.
This is my modest contribution to the Christmas discussion. Yes, it’s a terribly commercial time of year. Personally, I don’t buy Christmas gifts and it would take a very great external force or inner need to put myself into a crowded store at any time of the year. I’ve been to less Christmas dinners than the fingers of one hand, which isn’t bragging. I know that I’ve missed a lot over the years (of turkey, yumm). But at least there is something that I like about the season.
Deck the halls with boughs of holly