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Referenced HuffPost piece: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/judith-greenberg-phd/christmas-gifts-in-a-jewish-home_b_2362999.html

“S.” is a Pakistani civil servant who corresponds with some western writers, at least two Jewish ones.

In the above referenced piece, Judith Greenberg writes, “One of my new friends, S., a reader from Pakistan, teaches me over and again about the gift of writing. She responds to my blogs with thoughts about her own experiences with writing, also full of heart.”

The use of italics and an initial are mine, and S., so far as I know, is a he (this by way of a profile picture elsewhere).

Hi, S.,

It’s good to see you reading The Huffington Post.

Welcome to America!

I wrote a song a long time ago titled “Solstice Season”.

The truth is in Christian-majority America, everyone celebrates or experiences Christmas: the atmosphere of it is pervasive; however, it’s the Christians who go to Mass on the 25th, and the rest of us have a cheerful day — or try to wherever life has placed us — as it’s just about impossible to go on with anything mundane.

For going out, there are always a few Chinese restaurants open for business as usual — and for them, the traffic may be a gift.

For other enterprises, the staffing is sketchy but paid well for the holiday time. For example, around here, the groceries stores are closed but convenience stores may fill in in a pinch.

Hanuka, the not-quite-coinciding Jewish holiday, may have evolved into the present cheerful children’s gift-giving holiday in relation to Christian practices; however: the Hanuka menorah has an ancient past:

JERUSALEM — Israeli archaeologists have uncovered one of the earliest depictions of a menorah, the seven-branched candelabra that has come to symbolize Judaism, the Israel Antiquities Authority said Friday. The menorah was engraved in stone around 2,000 years ago and found in a synagogue recently discovered by the Sea of Galilee.
Pottery, coins and tools found at the site indicate the synagogue dates to the period of the second Jewish temple in Jerusalem, where the actual menorah was kept, said archaeologist Dina Avshalom-Gorni of the Israel Antiquities Authority.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/09/11/archaeologists-find-early_n_283333.html

The Jewish holiday and tradition — and Maccabee story — are completely culturally and historically authentic. It’s the manner of the celebration that may be responsive to the Christian flavor of the season.

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When the “European Invasion” displaced the indigenous of the continent, the settlers could not imagine, I’m sure, developing an American culture separate from the European one, but that is what has happened in every area of expression even as the Christian tradition asserts itself at this time of year (and at Easter).  “American Transcendentalism” and the unconscious and seldom self-conscious relationship with the earth itself, something in the air and shared with the indigenous love of the land, may comprise the larger part of the American spirit.

To really head off on this topic, I need my full typing skill, but I think there is in every human a primitive love of being alive with the land and with nature.

As in Rome, as before Constantine, as it has been always on this continent, EVERYONE knows the shortest day of the year, the bitter cold weather to come, the longer days to come too, and poor or rich, by way of donations or presents, from home to the homeless shelters, the country gets cozy and enjoys itself.

Perhaps all is not not quite as bright as I paint it — there’s tragedy too revolving around the “Hellidays”, an immense period of review, a difficult time for the dysfunctional within families that have been somewhat artificially forced to gather for a meal, a most depressing time for those on the outs with society, and an unsafe period for those with problems plus alcohol and drugs and fast cars and such (and those unlucky to be in their path) — but all that too is America at this time of year.

Celebrate the differences, my friend: take it all in.  We’re all here on an hospitable “blue marble” floating in a universe that for as far out as man can see is overwhelmingly inorganic .

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