Last week I asked non-Christmas celebrating locals what they thought of the recent proliferation of Santa events.
What does this Santa frenzy feel like to people who don’t celebrate Christmas at all? Does it feel like an annual expression of the power of the dominant (Christian) culture? Does it reinforce a feeling of “otherness”? If there’s a reader out there in Columbia/HoCo who’d like to write a post addressing this from a non-Christian perspective, reach out to me through the blog. I’d love to make room for other points of view.
There was a lively discussion over on Facebook. I learned a lot. And one reader, Debbie Nix, reached out with further thoughts about her views.
Growing up Jewish in a predominately Christian culture, I always felt a push of commercialism around Christmas. Hannukah was a winter holiday that to me meant family, food, temple - and Celebration!
When we moved to Columbia, our family joined a congregation that met at the Interfaith Center in Wilde Lake and I soon went to my first Christmas Mass wth a friend. Attending at the Interfaith Center created both a curiosity around other religions and also a familiarity - families getting dressed up, going together to pray and enjoying fellowship with others.
I began to understand that Christmas was celebrated in a similar way, but had two faces. The solemn, religious beliefs and family celebration, and the commercialism that a community can participate in, no matter one's personal beliefs. Some friends were jealous that we got presents for 8 days, and that we sang and played guitar at temple and they had to be quiet and still. I felt like I got to celebrate the fun of Christmas without the solemnity.
I can remember one year, as we walked around Wilde Lake, we saw a house that had a BIG blue star of David in their window and I felt MAD. Mad that my beautiful, simple, family-centric holiday had gone commercial! I was probably 10 and it felt wrong to me, competitive. That feeling sticks with me as I see houses now decorated for Hannukah. Huge inflatables, ugly commercial behemoths. I still don't like it, and likely the reason that after I married and we began celebrating both Hannukah and Christmas, my home was decorated with simple greens, candles, winter-themed items. Although I must admit to having many ornaments that are Santa faces, most of my ornaments are made of natural materials and represent something about our family. No round Xmas balls or icicles on my tree. And we did both holidays once David was born, mostly celebrating Hannukah with his grandparents and with Brisket and presents; the annual latke-making and menorah lighting at home. As an adult, David chose Christianity as his religious belief and told me he would always feel culturally Jewish.
All this to say that I find the proliferation of Santa events as a way to allow more of the community an opportunity to enjoy the "fun" of Christmas, whatever their beliefs. And if you look, you'll see some financial equity in the events; from free to quite costly. I still would like to see more Santas of color; but that's probably a topic for a whole different blog post!
Debbie Nix enjoys living and working in Columbia, a community that was built upon and continues to work towards economic, racial and religious diversity. She serves on the County's Opioid Crisis Community Council, working to educate, improve the systems of support and access to resources around substance use disorders in Howard County. She also is an administrator for the "Addiction Support in Howard County" FB page and works at the Harper's Choice Community Association.
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