My Christmas with a Jewish Family
For many like me who identify with the Christian faith, the Christmas period and in particular Christmas day is extremely monumental. This is because on this day, Jesus the Messiah was borne. In its commemoration therefore, Christians traditionally celebrate Christmas day by feasting and exchanging gifts. A typical scenario seen during the period leading to Christmas day is one filled with candle lighting, thanks giving and carol singing. Traditionally, on the night eve of Christmas, a service is held where carols with the account of the birth of Jesus are sung all night long and biblical scriptures with the same message are read. To us Christians, Jesus is the Messiah sent by God to deliver mankind and so through our faith in that, we celebrate and honor Jesus’ birth.
Last year, I got an opportunity to spend Christmas with a Jewish family from the eve of Christmas to Christmas day itself and learnt quite a lot about their beliefs about Christmas. On arrival at the house, there were no Christmas lights or any décor signifying celebration, no Christmas tree and certainly no wrapped gifts in the vicinity. First and foremost, I was astounded to learn that they do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah when I asked of what plans there were for Christmas. To them, Jesus did not meet their expectations of the Messiah because he went away before fulfilling all prophesies the most important being liberating Israel from the Roman rule. Based on this, they believe that Jesus was a false prophet and so have no business celebrating his birth. Eighty two percent of Jewish homes don’t get Christmas trees and that even the 75% that engages in exchange of gifts do so for secular reasons.
Upon enquiring on what activities they engage in during the festivity, I was given a list of options to choose from none of which included celebrating the birth of Christ. Top on the list was the option of going for Chinese food. This was because Christmas last year coincided with the Sabbath and Jews completely do no work on the Sabbath. Having Chinese food therefore was one of the best options considering the fact that all other food outlets close for Christmas.
Going to the movies is also a very good option when Jews are looking for activities to engage in during Christmas day. Most movie theatres are normally open in the afternoon and so those in the mood for movies can make their way there.
Even more shocking is the fact that Jewish workers go as far as offering themselves to work extra during this period as all other workers prefer to go home and celebrate Christmas with their families. In addition to the extra shifts, Jewish workers also take this time to do community service. After covering extra shifts, the Jewish workers ask for days off later on after Christmas when their fellow workers have resumed work.
To other Jews, this period is most opportune to hold family gatherings in order to catch up with other relatives since they automatically have a day off. To add to that, there is an option of attending Matzah Balls which are dances organized for Jewish singles and are held on the eve of Christmas or on Christmas night.
In conclusion, religion and religious practices continue to be contentious issues that have created rifts between people who strongly affiliate to different religious groups. All in all, each religion should be accorded due respect no matter its beliefs and practices.