Christmas, Holiday, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, etc. Does it really matter?

by on December 14, 2010 · 13 comments

in Culture, The Widder Curry

I have been watching the controversy of the naming of the La Jolla ______Parade (you call it what you want to call  it) with some amusement. I have wondered what difference it makes to most people. How about another perspective?

I was born to Jewish parents. My Grandparents did not keep a Kosher house, but they did not eat any pork products. Neither did my Mother, but she didn’t eat much of anything anyway. My father and I loved bacon and eggs on the weekend, but they were cooked by our housekeeper – yes, Virginia, I was raised by wealthy folk. My Dad and I frequently ate shrimp, clams, lobster, all forbidden by Jewish law.

The first time I got married I married a Jew. At least HIS parents were Jewish. They enjoyed pork products as well as shell-fish, so there was no difficulty in our eating habits.

The second time I got married I married a “lapsed Catholic” that wanted to convert to Judaism. I said “no” because I was afraid that if he converted, I would have to embrace the religion too, and my stomach ruled the roost. No bacon? No shrimp? No Judaism either!

The kids had the best holiday season – Chanukah, Christmas – because we celebrated all the holidays. The name of the season was “gifts” and they got their share. However, whenever I am asked to designate my religion, I still put down “Jewish.” I can’t tell you why. The only time I’ve been in Temple is for a funeral or wedding. I do not attend services because once I thought it would be nice if Bob and I and the three girls went to Temple for the High Holidays. The cost for 5 seats was prohibitive, and the closest I ever came to practicing being a Jew was when I saw “Fiddler on the Roof.” That was good enough for me.

I don’t really care what the Parade is called in La Jolla – or any other place for that matter. I don’t care if the parade is called the “La Jolla Parade” because that makes sense if you think about it, but I am not offended by what it is called.

However, and this is where there is a different perspective takes place. I am a grieving widow. Although this is the second year that Bob is not with me for the holidays – he died in September, 2009 – I grieve deeply, not just during the holidays, but every day.

Because I was not able to handle my grief alone, I joined two support groups made up of women that have also lost someone they love dearly. One group is a “widows” group; one group encompasses other loved ones – daughters, mothers, etc. Without these groups, I could never have survived. I was married at 17; divorced at 27; remarried at 27; and until Bob’s death after 44 years, had never lived by myself. The silence is deadening; the loneliness unnerving. Whenever I meet a grieving person, and just walk the walk at Ft. Rosecrans – I encourage them to join a support group like mine. And that is what I did when a new widow stopped me and said, “Does it ever get better?” Her husband passed away in April, 2010. She is still in shock; still raw from the experience.

And that is what she did. The first time she went to her meeting she came away saying that she would not go back. It did not meet her needs. Everyone was “standoffish”; she did not detect any warmth. I encouraged her to try again, and, thank goodness, she took my advice and the experience was a good one. She has been going back every since.

Last week she attended a meeting and wanted to share with me – as I will share with you – a poem that someone in the group wanted the leader to read. It is a beautiful poem; meant to comfort the griever. And, I suppose it does. But not to me. I am so offended by the poem I cannot stand it. If I were the leader I might have passed it out for others to read, but I certainly would not have read it to the group. So why am I offended? Here it is:

My First Christmas In Heaven

I see the countless Christmas trees around the world below

With tiny lights, like heaven’s stars, reflecting in the snow.

The sight is so spectacular, please wipe away the tear,

For I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I hear the many Christmas songs that people hold so dear,

But the sounds of music can’t compare with the Christmas choir up here.

I have no words to tell you, the joy their voices bring,

For it’s beyond description to hear the angels sing.

I know how much you miss me, I see the pain inside your heart.

But I am not so far away, we really aren’t apart.

So be happy for me dear ones. You know I hold you near.

Be glad I’m spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

I send you each a special gift from my heavenly home above.

I send you each a memory of my undying love.

After all “Love” is the gift, more precious than pure gold.

It was always most important in the stories Jesus told.

Please love and keep each other, as my father said to do.

For I can’t count the blessings nor the love He has for you.

So have a joyous Christmas and wipe away the tear.

Remember, I am spending Christmas with Jesus Christ this year.

Why am I so offended? After all, I am not a practicing Jew. I don’t want Bob to spend Christmas with “Jesus Christ.” I want him to spend Christmas – or the Holidays – with me. And besides, I don’t believe in this “Jesus Christ” person. Bob didn’t ask me if he could spend Christmas with Jesus. In fact, he didn’t ask me if he could spend Christmas anywhere without me. Does this poem comfort me? Hell no! It makes me angry that it was read at a grievance group. I don’t know the make-up of the group and if they were all Christians they probably appreciated it. I don’t, and think it does not belong in a support group.

Since I am used to controversy, what do you think? Am I wrong?(Won’t make much difference, because I will not change my feelings, but I sure would like to know what you think.)

By the way – Merry Christmas; Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Ashura, Happy Bodhi Day, and any others I might have forgotten!

{ 13 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Goatskull December 14, 2010 at 9:25 am

Not being Jewish in any capacity I can’t really say if your being offended is reasonable or not. It’s not for me to say. I look at it this way. If I want to put “Merry Christmas” on my front door and some neighbors who don’t celebrate Christmas complain to me, I will simply tell them no one is stopping them from decorating the exterior of their place in any way they choose. If they want to string “Happy Hanukah” on their door or window it won’t offend me in the slightest, so I kind of expect the same respect towards me. If that’s not possible then they can suck it up. Back to the poem, again I can’t really say how you should feel. Perhaps one way to look at it is this. Apparently her Christian belief is what comforts her through her grief. Should she hold back on expressing her belief just because others in the group might not be Christian? Maybe a good question to ask her sometime would be something to the effect of how excepting would she be if another person were to express a different faith through a poem read out loud to the group? Would she be willing to give the same respect? Not really being a religious person myself I suppose it’s kind of easy for me to be neutral.

Anyway, everyone have a Merry/Happy Xquanzikahmas.


avatar just my 2 cents December 14, 2010 at 10:01 am

I say we all erect a pole and celebrate ” a Festivus for the Rest of Us” like the Costanzas.


avatar JChristian December 14, 2010 at 2:59 pm

I hesitate to call myself a Christian because of the expectations, both positive and negative, that that designation puts on me. I’m neither as kind to the poor nor as hateful to the gays as some Christians would like. Nevertheless, I attend several services a week, and I continue to pray for Judi, Bob, and Buddy. As a widow, I am offended by the saccharine sentimentality in that dreadful poem. The author would undoubtedly say it was “God’s Plan” for my husband to die. However, if this poem gives comfort to some grieving person, then, it’s okay–but not for me and not for Judi!


avatar judi December 14, 2010 at 3:20 pm

Dear Goat, Just and J,
Thanks for your feedback. I just put my “Christmas Wreath” on the door; put away the Menorah; ate the Hanukkah gelt, and wondered why I am offended. J – I think that you have answered the question for me. The poem does make it sound like it was “God’s Plan” for your husband – and mine – to die. I, personally, have a great deal of difficulty with that concept. If that is the case, then why hasn’t God come up with cures for lung cancer, breast cancer, heart disease, diabetes, etc. To call God’s plan “faulty” makes me very uncomfortable. I have heard that God is good; but God wasn’t good in taking away our husbands. I read the poem to the two groups of women sitting at my Christmas Table last Sunday. (The food was on the “Christmas Table”; the drinks – Egg Nog; Brandy Vanilla Ice; Sangria; Bloody Mary’s, etc. were on the Hanukkah table!) I know that most of them are semi-religious; one was married to a Pastor; several go to Church regularly – in fact one was late because she had just come from Church – but the feeling was the same. What if there were other religions there – not just Jewish? What if there were non-believers there? We are all in various stages of grief, and although the poem may have been comforting to some, it does not belong at a grieving group.

I truly appreciate your feedback – it’s nice to know that sometimes I can be right in my beliefs. Judi


avatar bodysurferbob December 14, 2010 at 9:50 pm

judi, what about us atheists? how do you think we feel during this “religious” period of the calendar? and we’re a growing segment of the population.

what do you think we think when we see all the hypocrisy during ____(you name the religious holiday) _ ? christmas is the time when we can really appreciate that we’re not a christian nation – the hypocrisy is so so sharp. it’s so apparent that people really don’t live by the religious principles that are enshrined only in the churches and temples – and not in the hearts of the followers.

will you say a prayer for us, us atheists as well? (just kidding) listen, i don’t care what they call the parade, too. la jolla parade is good enough for me too.


avatar dave rice December 14, 2010 at 4:18 pm

I think that breaking out this poem at anything other than a specifically Christian-oriented event would be offensive. Even then, I think I can see how it still might not be comforting to everyone. Judi already hit on the most appropriate action – handing it out for people to read later (or not).


avatar annagrace December 14, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Judi- I think people feel what they feel. Period. Those feelings are in an important sense beyond judgment. How we act upon our feelings is quite another thing. It is obvious that you exercised restraint in your support group even though you were feeling a deep pain and anger. I understand your pain and anger, and I applaud you for not standing up and saying “That is bull sh@t!”

But the topic of how and where we find comfort in the face of a deep loss is a relevant one. The days before my brother’s death were emotionally and physically exhausting. Jackie died a few minutes before midnight at home with his family at his side. We had to wait over an hour for the hospice nurse to arrive and pronounce him dead, and then another hour or so for the funeral home directors to arrive. To make a long story short I got ripped to the t’s on a bottle of port….was sicker than a dog the following day…stayed in bed and let my sister in law and my brother’s sons attend to all of the funeral arrangements.

I was shocked and deeply grieved that one of the viewings was a mini-mass and the funeral itself was a mass. It was traditional and it was impersonal. When the priest gave a canned speech, your name here, about how my brother’s last days paralleled the sufferings and thoughts of Christ, I almost had a stroke. It was lie. I was enraged and in deep pain. I swallowed those feelings. My sister-in-law took great comfort in that mass. I cannot deny her that comfort. It simply offered no comfort to me. That is something different.

We have the right to find comfort where we can. I hope (and suspect) that you continue to search for those places. Writing this article was perhaps one of them. Thank you Judi.


avatar Zach on the side December 16, 2010 at 1:47 am

So wise and well-considered. Thanks for the lesson.


avatar IAN December 14, 2010 at 6:30 pm

Where’s John Lennon when we need him?


avatar Frank Gormlie December 14, 2010 at 9:44 pm

Even in your grief mixed witty observations about our customs, you’re funny, Judi! Couldn’t believe you forced us to read that poem, though.


avatar judi December 15, 2010 at 10:33 am

Can you imagine sitting in the audience!!!


avatar Zach on the side December 16, 2010 at 1:56 am

Certainly would seem to have been easier to swallow if the leader had prefaced the reading with a brief comment, “This has been helpful to some, and might be helpful to some others.” Wherever religion is discussed in a non-religious venue, anyone should be careful not to impose personal views. What, when looking down from Heaven, the Christmas lights were so bright they blinded out all others?

Judi, I don’t know why any day is more special than another, as they’re all precious. Happy day(s) to you, always.


avatar judi December 17, 2010 at 8:46 pm

Hi All, Just got dressed up in my red slacks; green blouse and socks, and wore my newly polished white shoes to go to a Christmas Party. It was fun; nothing special was done but the smell of the real tree was wonderful. (Of course my allergies have now kicked in and I have been sneezing all day.) But it was a fun party, no matter what it was called. The outside was decorated nicely, with a creche near the doorway. Didn’t bother me in the slightest. It was being with the people inside that was the highlight of the night. Some of us were “non-believers”, some of us were “strong believers”, some of us – them? – were drunk, but the companionship was delightful. It would have been fun no matter what it was called. At no time was I offended; at no time did someone try to foist their beliefs on me – well, that’s not quite true. Someone did tell me that the wassail was better than the egg nog and I should try it instead of what I was drinking, but I was willing to oblige and I decided that I didn’t like either of the drinks.

But what I am saying – yeah, Curry, just what are you saying? – is it is easy to be a participant when not being threatened. It is easy to enjoy oneself when everyone respects each other – their beliefs as well as them as a person. It is easy to just be yourself without having to prove that you are better than the other person. It is easy just being you. Happy Holidays. And just a little tip – from the “tipsy” – forget the wassail!


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