Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Out of step with the times

The longer I blog, the more I realize how utterly stupid I am and the less I understand the world I find myself living in. Most of what I have been taught to be true is apparently not true anymore. It’s a very surreal feeling. I feel like everyone else got the memo but me and I haven’t a clue as to how I am to go about getting my email address on the list for future reference.

Take this Sea-Tac Christmas tree kafuffle. I never realized that the general wisdom dictates that Christmas trees are now considered a secular symbol of the ‘holiday’ season. What seems incredibly apparent to me, but not to my obvious betters, is that to even refer to a tree as a “Christ-mass” tree would dictate a religious connation. Let’s not even discuss what “holiday” we are referring to when we talk about the ‘holiday’ season.

This actually goes a long way in explaining why I had so many emails asking when one should put up the Christmas tree or decorate the home for Christmas. I kept saying one does it at the beginning of Advent which lead to more emails from Christians asking what is Advent and when does it begin.

I could understand if you were Jewish, Buddhist, Muslim or Hindu asking what is Advent and when does it begin, and as far as I know most religious Jews, Buddhists, Muslims or Hindus don’t bother putting up Christmas trees as it concerns a religious tradition in Christianity. I am obviously stupid so I am probably wrong about that assumption as well. It was just, I couldn’t understand if you were a Christian why one didn’t know what and when Advent begins as it’s an integral part of Christian religious teaching. If you didn’t know the religious tradition just why would one go to all the hassle up of putting up a tree and decorating it?

I get it now. Christmas trees are a traditional secular symbol used in a generic holiday season which falls in December. Mea Culpa.


Lisa R said...

Hi Kate, found your blog through Scott at the Sorry Centrist. Not to throw you off more, but the Christmas tree actually originated long before Christianity. Christians adopted the Christmas tree to celebrate the birth of Christ. So for some who are not Christian it is is a symbol of winter solstice.

Kateland, aka TZH said...

Hi Lisa,

I am quite aware there have been many groups since ancient times which have adopted a tree, even an Evergreen, as a religious symbol at one time or another, but this is the first time I have fully understood the implications of "CHRISTMAS" tree as a traditional secular symbol and not as a popular/common Christmas symbol of the time for Christ Mass which has been the case for last few centuries in Christendom.

Anonymous said...


I still think that Christmas tree is more of a Christian symbol than anything else. Although - when I was a child (not in Israel), in our (Jewish) home it was a tradition to put up a tree towards Christmas too - strange as it may sound.

And let me tell you: I, and lots of other Jews, do not have any trouble with either being in one room with the tree or even raising a drink to the occasion.

Of course, I wouldn't mind that famous menorah being present as well, but I will not press it on anyone. Jews who behave as if their religion is missioinary (which it is expressly not) do not do us favors.

But all the above is my personal opinion, not necessarily shared by all. Although - I think that it is shared by most.

Cheers, I hope that the kerfuffle you refer too is closed now.

Kateland, aka TZH said...

Snoopy, I'm really curious, why would your family put up a tree? This strikes me as a really strange thing to do. I have probably put up way too many trees this season and am sick of it.

My son tells me his Hindi friend from school has a Christmas tree at home and celebrates Christmas too.

Apparently, his Dad dresses up as Santa and passes out presents on Christmas morning....though the religious aspects are left out - it still strikes me as a kind of strange thing to do.

Though I do find it kind of appealing & amusing to think of a Santa with a heavy Hindi accent. My son's friend says his family does it to feel Canadian.

All of which points to how the secular has completely taken over a religious ritual and almost rendered it meaningless. It appears, I am fast becoming SOL if I ever want to skip Christmas by traveling to another "foreign" country. At this rate the only places left will be Iran or Saudia Arabia - where I sincerely doubt me and Remy-Martin will be welcome.

I too hope the sea-tac thing has been put to bed but I still feel that putting up the Menorah would have been a nice gesture for the authorities to do - especially in light of the shooting at the Jewish community centre last July.

Anonymous said...

Why? Probably because

1. The religious aspect of the whole thing was thoroughly scourged by the Soviets by the time in question, so there was no (at least formally)linkage to real Christmas.

2. We (the children) would have felt laft out and envious otherwise. Not to mention the obligatory presents and Santa (btw, also not a Christian invention).

3. Lots of other Jewish families have been doing it.

I still love the pine smell since then.

I agree about the menorah, but the airport authorities have been right in one aspect (at least): what about other religions' symbols?