It's the most wonderful time of the year ... or is it?

December 11, 2007|By BETHANY FERGUSON / Pulse Correspondent

It all begins after Thanksgiving. Festive decorations and glowing lights are all in sight for the next month. Carolers sing, children make their list for Santa Claus, and the radio plays "It's the most wonderful time of the year."

But for whom is it wonderful?

The celebration of Christmas is everywhere in December - in media, advertising, government and various secular environments. But what about non-Christians?

This year, Hanukkah will be over by the time Christmas rolls around. What will Jews do on Dec. 25? How do Muslims handle the festivities surrounding them during the Christian holiday season? This merry time of the year may be a joyous occasion for some, but for followers of non-Christian faiths, it might be uncomfortable.

"My family and I use Christmas as a time to reconnect with our Jewishness," said Amy Glassman, a 16-year-old Orthodox Jew who lives and home-schools in Williamsport. Amy spoke about the holidays by e-mail.


"During the whole month of December, Christmas advertisements for gifts, decorations, and trees are exploited in the media. It can be hard to ignore," she wrote. "But my family and I use it as a learning experience."

Amy said she spends even more time with her Jewish family and friends during the holiday season.

"We all get together frequently," she said. "We play games, eat, talk about our religious views and eat some more."

She said she isn't upset by the commercialization of Christmas.

"I totally respect Christian beliefs," she said. "If I were living in a country where the majority of the population were Jews, then Hanukkah would be exploited generously."

Amy said she and her Christian friends respect each others' religions and holidays.

"They all respect my religion just as I respect theirs," she said. "I even got them gifts this year, and they bought me some, too, and gave them to me during Hanukkah. They think the concept of getting one gift a day for eight days is awesome."

Blake Howell is 15 and is home-schooled in Hagerstown. He is a Jehovah's Witness. Jehovah's Witnesses don't celebrate any religious holiday except Passover. He wrote in an e-mail that he and his family had an overall accepting outlook on Christmas.

"It can be hard sometimes, since Christmas talk is so heavy, but I don't mind it," he said. "I don't give or get gifts from anyone during the holiday season. I don't expect anything, my friends and other family respect my religion."

Ignoring the Christmas commercialization isn't hard for Blake.

"I respect people's beliefs," he said. "I do think the true meaning of Christmas has gone away because it's (become) all about what you can buy for others."

Jasmin Noohi, a Muslim 16-year-old junior attending Marriotts Ridge High School in Marriottsville, Md., had an overall positive outlook on festivities during Christmas. In Islam, Jesus is thought of as a prophet who is well-respected and looked up to.

"We do celebrate the birth of Jesus, but not to the extent of Christians," she said. "I respect that Americans have this tradition and it doesn't really bother me. I realize it's important to some people, just as the celebration of Muslim religions are in Iran."

Jasmin doesn't go for the commercialization of Christmas, but she's at least a little affected by the emphasis on holiday gift-giving. She said she does not give gifts, nor does she expect gifts during the holiday season. But her family does usually give her something so she doesn't feel left out.

"Going back to school after break is kind of awkward," she said. "All my friends have brand new gadgets, and clothes, and I don't have anything new, which is why my family usually gives me something - so I don't feel left out."

Jasmin says she thinks of Christmas time as a great chance to relax. During the Christmas break, Jasmin and her family travel to Florida. But she also likes to connect with her family and with religion.

"I respect the beliefs of people who celebrate Christmas," she said. "I'm living in a country where the majority of the population is Christian, so it doesn't bother me that they're celebrating their holiday how they want to."

David Friedman is a home-schooled 17-year-old living in Columbia, Md. He is a Sephardic Jew.

"Christmas is actually just like any other day in my family," he said, adding that on Christmas he likes to reconnect with his Jewish friends and family. "They're the only ones (whose schedules are) free."

David says his family is very close during the holidays. Even though they don't celebrate Christmas family and friends come over to his house on Dec. 25.

"We all get together and eat and debate about politics and stuff," he said.

David is not crazy about the commercialization of Christmas.

"I do believe that some advertisements and the media take away from the true Christian meaning of the holidays, but they have to make money somehow," David said.

David had the same overall outlook on Christmas as Jasmin.

"It's a nice time to take a break and connect with my family and my inner self," he said, "despite the constant pressure from the media to spend money."

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