By Leon A Smith
December 22, 2011
December in New York City is one of my favourite experiences. The atmosphere – the cold, the snow, the ice rinks in front of the Rockefeller Centre and in Central Park. The City has a buzz which is unparalleled. The words “Merry Christmas” are usually not heard but the words “Happy Holidays” are. In recognition of the fact that New York City is the ultimate cosmopolitan city there can never be any presumption that anybody that one doesn’t know is going to be celebrating Christmas as opposed to Chanukah and/or anything else. Chanukah is as much a part of the mainstream of life in the City as is Christmas and as indeed are Festivals and anniversary dates belonging to many other cultures and religions.
Whilst the same cannot be said to apply to the same extent in London there is definitely a move towards this. In other words more and more people are saying “Happy Festive Season” and/or “Happy Holidays” without making the assumption that one is going to be celebrating Christmas. And what do we as Jews say to our Jewish friends and family – certainly not “Happy Christmas”. We cannot say “Happy Chanukah” – although we can say “Happy New Year” although this will be the second time this year we will be doing so! We’ve already all wished each other “Happy New Year “ at the beginning of 5772 in October, so where do we belong? Where is our identity? Should we be celebrating only Chanukah and the Jewish New Year and/or are we at liberty to celebrate Christmas and the secular New Year. Can we indeed have our cake and eat it?
At Nightingale we are a totally multi cultural society – all of our residents are Jewish and our fantastic staff group come from a wide variety of different backgrounds, cultures, religions, etc. Christmas is not ignored – many of our staff are Christian and do celebrate Christmas. It would be totally unfair and unrealistic to pretend it didn’t exist! By the same token, in order not to cause any offence to our residents, it is not possible for the Festival to be celebrated overtly, therefore restricting Christmas trees and decorations to dedicated staff areas. Our residents themselves do not have a traditional Christmas lunch – but our staff do. Notwithstanding that, our residents do have a very nice and slightly enhanced meal on 25th December.
We all owe a huge debt of gratitude to those of our staff who do celebrate Christmas, who actually come into work on the 25th December to care for our residents. And this is the one day of the year on which very few people would choose to work. Yet everybody recognises that somebody has to. Having said that we do try and rotate to ensure that somebody working on the 25th does not have to work on New Year’s Day and vice versa.
Looking at the bigger picture, this time of the year is a very happy and uplifting one with everyone choosing to celebrate in a way that matters to them and in the manner of their choice.
In conclusion may I take this opportunity of wishing everyone a “Happy Christmas; Happy Chanukah; Happy New Year; A Happy & Prosperous 2012”
See you next year!