Celebrating different cultures this season

By: Carol Feineman, editor
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Paraphrasing the words of legendary crooner Perry Como, Lincoln’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Every day this week, I saw more and more residents in the downtown area putting up Christmas light displays, each one a time-involved process. I walked by Snoopy dressed as an elf sliding down a roof of one house and I saw elaborately wrapped presents at a nearby front yard. Then there’s my favorite, a spectacular pastel-colored flickering display of purple lights that resembles flowers. It was also easy to see the Christmas season in full force at area grocery and department stores. That was due to festive Santa merchandise displays, cheery holiday music playing and cinnamon, clove and egg nog-flavored food offerings in every store I visited this week. Even our office these last few days became Christmas-accessorized with lighted garlands and a wreath outside, and a Christmas tree and miniature-snowman decorations inside. I know this transformation happens annually in every city in the United States, right after Thanksgiving. But being Jewish, I don’t celebrate the religious holiday; I just observe my friends preparing for this Yuletide holiday. This time of year, I celebrate Hanukkah, an eight-day holiday honoring the Jewish Maccabees who rebuilt their house of worship in the year 165 BCE after their enemies desecrated the temple. So, last Friday, after the last of my three co-workers were done for the day and were excitedly talking about their holiday plans, I casually asked what garlands mean during this season. I was expecting a simple answer so they could return to their Christmas discussion. But they didn’t give me a quick explanation about garlands. Instead, I received a multitude of questions about Hanukkah, including what kinds of decorations I display at home during my holiday. After briefly describing the menorah (or candelabrum that symbolizes religious freedom) and the dreidel (or spinning-top game), I was surprised when Brenda Thomas, Julie Crespin and Stephanie Dumm simultaneously and graciously asked me to bring my decorations to work. They actually insisted that I share my decorations. In Stephanie’s words, we would become a multi-cultural office this holiday season. I was greatly touched, more than I let on Friday afternoon, by my peers’ thoughtfulness. I realized that we’re not just employees wanting to produce the best newspaper we can but that we just as importantly respect each other’s traditions and values. (If only every country could understand that latter principle, maybe we’d have less wars. But that’s a better subject for nationally syndicated political columnists.) So this year, The News Messenger office proudly hosts holiday traditions from both religions. We’re not the only ones, of course, to merge the two holidays. Chrismukkah is defined by Wikipedia as the “merging of the holidays of Christmas and Hanukkah.” Time Magazine listed Chrismukkah as a Top 10 annual “buzzword” in 2004. But that was five years ago. The buzz is over. And, the more I thought about it over the weekend as I eagerly looked for my holiday decorations and symbols, sharing is what the holidays embody, after all. Hanukkah, which falls anytime between late November to late December, according to the Jewish calendar, begins this year on Friday. What a wonderful gift my officemates have given me by caring enough about being part of my holiday and having me be a part of their holiday. Happy Hanukkah and merry Christmas!