No not my very first Christma, but my first christmas in nearly 20 years.
I grew up in a secular home, but my parents always celebrated Christmas. Which is a bit of an understatement. Christmas was my mom’s favorite holiday and she went all out on presents and decorating and feeling it all.
When I got married we couldn’t afford the extravagant presents giving that my mom did but we still enjoyed the holiday. We did advent with our kids and participated in church Christmas events and generally made it a fun time of year.
Then about twenty years age I converted to Orthodox Judaism. That is a story unto itself, so I’m not going there, but it did have a bit impact on my celebrating Christmas. Some Jews celebrate non-Jewish holidays but that is mostly those in Reform Judaism. Reform is a lot less strict than Orthodox.
Within Orthodox Judaism, or maybe I should say within in the Orthodoxy I was taught as a convert, any semblance of experiencing another religion was considered wrong. For example I was told I couldn’t kneel to pray or do anything, because Christians kneel. Needless to say with that mindset celebrating, in any way, something as overtly Christian as Christmas was totally out. I was discouraged even from replying to ‘Merry Christmas’. But it was the faith I adopted and so I toed the line.
Now we must fast forward a couple decades. I still very much consider myself Jewish and there is so much that I love about Judaism. I love the holidays and much of the culture, but mostly I love some of the beautiful beliefs. Like considering every element of an issue. Most things are not black and white, most things just aren’t that simple and Judaism does a wonderful job of exploring all of the elements of an issue and looking at each incident based on it’s own unique elements.
My most favorite part of Judaism is Tikkun Olam, Repairing the wold. Simply put it is the belief that we are put here to make the world a better place than it was before us. That speaks to my heart so very much. My heart’s cry is for equality for everyone and so I see this as that.
Having said all of that I have to also say I have left the strict interpretation of the sages. That is another story unto itself and I am happy to discuss that privately if you want to DM me. But the result of leaving those strict rules is the ability to enjoy the good in things once forbidden, such as Christmas.
This year I have listened to and even sung Christmas songs both at home and while I have been out. No I don’t believe the whole manger story, but I do believe in the central message of Christmas. To me that is God loves all of us and that we should love and share joy with each other.
All of this culminated in helping serve Christmas dinner. My favorite bar, The Sun Trapp (please see update below), provides holiday meals for members of the queer community that don’t have a place to have one. I volunteered to help serve the meal they were providing.
I had such a wonderful time. I may have been serving them but they were feeding my soul. You see I have always had a servant’s heart. A heart that longs to give to and help others that I care about. It isn’t just that I like to give, I need to give. And while I have had opportunities to give, in the past couple decades it has been rare and had to be done with proper decorum.
Last night I served everyone with all of the joy and intensity of a small child opening their presents. I greeted everyone with a hearty ‘Merry Christmas’. I made sure they had everything they wanted and just the right amounts. I checked to see if they wanted seconds when they walked by a second time. I was so very happy as my soul was singing.
I may have served them but they gave me so much more.
Update on The Sun Trapp
Since I wrote this article The Sun Trapp has gone through some drastic changes. I would definitely not recommend it any longer, it is not what it used to be. The following is my perspective of what happened.
Full disclosure: Several of the old staff are friends of mine and I am quoted in the below article.
The SLC Tribune article below explains the details of what happened with the Trapp. Since that article was published the defendants have gained control of the bar and brought in all new management and staff.
Please bear in mind that the author of the article repeatedly tried to contact the defendants for their side of the story, but they refused to comment. While that doesn’t make them guilty one must ask why they felt they couldn’t defend their position if they were innocent of all charges.
If we were talking about a Walmart or Mc Donalds I would say who cares who is managing it. But this is a very small local business, the people were the heart and soul of the business. To me, and many more the building, location, and name were nothing, it was the people that brought it to life. The Trapp was our home because the people on the other side of the bar made it that way.
Personally, I would never patronize a business that treats people the way the defendants did. Furthermore, I have friends that have been harmed by some of the new staff (sorry I can’t give details), so I am certainly not going there. Obviously, we each have to decide what is important to us.