Saturday, December 26, 2015

The Other Holiday Meal

I happened upon a conversation on Facebook yesterday about the best place to get Chinese food on Christmas in Howard County. This is not a quest I have ever undertaken. Our family concerns usually center around what to serve as a main course now that my husband can't eat turkey. And most Facebook posts I see are traditionally Christmas ones: presents, Santa, kids, family, holiday clothes, holiday meals, and decorations.

After discussing with a Jewish friend the recent proposal by hcpss to keep school open on Jewish High Holy Days I have found myself looking more carefully at what the prevailing culture presumes. We don't always remember to make room for different ways of living and worshipping. I took a minute yesterday to say to him,

Thanks for tolerating the cultural and religious explosion that is Christmas with never a complaint...sometimes we get so caught up, we forget there's anything else but what we celebrate. Cheers to you and yours!

So, back to Chinese food. One poster said,

The old Jewish tradition was about finding a restaurant that was open. Chinese restaurants were open. In those days, Chinese was as exotic as it got for Asian food. Now there's Indian, Thai, Vietnamese, Burmese, Indonesian, you name it. I had Christmas Eve dinner at Gar-e-Kabab in Silver Spring, which is Nepali. Broaden your horizons! If it's open and it's Asian, it's Jewish Christmas food!

Interesting. You can be celebrating Christmas either in a religious way or a cultural way. Or you can be Other. And the folks who are Other stick together, in a sense, in a meal that reflects other cultures and traditions. Right now our country seems to be gripped by a convulsive response to Otherness which shows the worst of us: fear, hatred, rejection, presumed cultural superiority.

My wise friend said,

As a Jew ... I live in a society dominated by Christian tradition. We don't complain, yet see the hypocrisy in every action against Muslims, Sikhs, etc. This is a white Christian society. If you don't fit the mold you need to stay alert!

What a message. A message that many of us never have to think about. And it's so much bigger than where to get Chinese food on Christmas.

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