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A season to be jolly
To go with the flow is my way of contributing to the world peace



December 21, 2006 

Running from store to store, with just a few shopping days left, the music blasting throughout the stores adds to my anxiety and I am convinced that some jingles were composed by someone who didn’t enjoy this holiday. They sound sad, fail to enhance the spiritual aspect of the season, and promote commercialism, thus taking away some of the sanctity one may associate with this time of the year.

While shops in general only care about sales, nowadays they make no secret of their religious divisions. In the old days, the colorful decorations of this entire season signified Christmas, but now the Jewish shops display their own strands of lights amid blue and silver glitter. Churches put lights on a cross, synagogues light up their menorah and despite the stores blasting Peace On Earth, the division is hard to miss. Belonging to neither group, I simply enjoy the sights and sing along with whatever is playing. To go with the flow is my way of contributing to the world peace. The truth is, if I had to sing my own song, the one that describes me best, it would have to be something along the line of “Nowhere Man” by the Beatles! That would hardly be a cause for celebration, regardless of what time of the year you sang it.

Somehow other religious groups have not claimed their share of Christmas music. Yet! The jingles have remained what they used to be, with the exception that a few performers have added their own touch, turning some songs into a much sadder tune. Maybe it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have other groups contribute their own jingles. It might be fun to have someone with blue body parts sing alongside Rudolph and his red nose! Considering that many of the greatest musicians are of Jewish background, they may indeed improve on the current monotony. And, to be sure, the seven nights of Hanukkah would be much shorter than the tedious “Twelve Days of Christmas!”

I am reminded of a day in my son’s second grade when his teacher called me in to have a talk. She wanted to inquire about my ethnic background in general, and the moral standards with which we raised our kids in particular.

Living far from the motherland, my family celebrated vernal equinox and the Persian New Year in its authentic tradition, not to mention with considerable difficulty. Back in the early seventies, not only the needed food items were not readily available, but also Chicago’s brutal cold left no hyacinths alive and often damaged our Sabzeh. But we didn’t give up, and I even went as far as obtaining a few simple clay banks so that the kids could put their aidee money in an authentic ghollak! But heritage aside, in an attempt to give them a sense of unity with their surroundings, we also offered them the joy of Christmas with all its trimmings.

When we moved to Highland Park, a Chicago suburb with an overwhelming population of Jewish families, and to a school system where my children were among the few non-Jewish students, I made sure they received small gifts during Hanukah, too. After all, prejudice begins at an early age, and we wanted to emphasize that holidays are not owned by, or limited to, anyone, and that they could join the celebration if they wanted to.

“Mrs. G, I’m not sure how you’re going to like this,” the teacher began cautiously. “But I am deeply touched by this observation. Yesterday, I asked my students to raise their hands if they celebrated Christmas, and your son was among the few who did. Then I asked how many celebrated Hanukkah, and his little hand went up again. Aware that he is not of both faiths, I called him after class and asked, “Which one of your parents is Jewish?” This seemed to puzzle the little guy, as he thought for a few seconds, but he finally responded, “Not sure, but I think it’s my mother!”

I should be grateful that the Persian New Year is months away and falls on a whole different season. Considering the overlap of Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa, if my Norooz happened to also be at this time of the year, it would be sure to get pushed into some political closet. The fact that local shops know nothing about Norooz is another blessing, because it leaves me alone to choose my gifts without being brainwashed into buying the more trendy merchandise. For now, all I want is a cup of good eggnog, and my share of this joyful season. After all, destiny has brought me to “Rome” and I shall do exactly “As the Romans do!” Comment

Zohreh Khazai Ghahremani gave up dentistry to be a full-time writer. She lives in San Diego, California. Her latest book is "Sharik-e Gham" (see excerpt). Visit her site

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