The NYT Weddings pages are filled with page after page of couples getting married by rabbis. The paper’s most-emailed articles are often on Jewish-related subjects. And the city in which the paper is based has maybe some Jews, not to mention non-Christians of other sects, and many of all atheistic bents. The Times is by no means a local paper, but its spiritual center is no more than a bagel’s throw away from Zabars.
So answer me this: What’s the point of today’s leading editorial? Cited in full to reveal full ridiculousness:
When Christmas Morning Comes
This is a simple holiday. Ask any child, or, better yet, ask yourself what you recall from your own childhood Christmases. Presents, yes, and shopping and decorations and the return of familiar songs and the smells of baking and perhaps the cadence of a few verses from the early chapters of Matthew and Luke. What persists above all is the feeling of finally going to bed on a dark winterâ€™s night full of hope for what the morning will bring. Even jaded adults can remember how that felt, and they remember it as viscerally as they remember anything. The emotional truth in that transition lies at the heart of Christmas. It captures the most basic rhythm of our lives â€” going to bed at night and getting up in the morning â€” and makes us keenly, happily aware of it. That rhythm is all the more stirring because the season is so penetrating, the winter darkness so long. Both of the basic stories we tell about Christmas, the shepherds in their fields by night and the peregrinations of Santa Claus, fill the darkness with life and possibility. A stranger, an extragalactic visitor wise enough to look past all the shopping, might be forgiven for thinking that this is the festival in which we celebrate the magic of sleep. After all, what other holiday do we attend in robes and pajamas? The optimism, the generosity, the charitable warmth of Christmas do stem, of course, from the pattern and the meaning of the biblical story. They have their source, too, in the sense of regeneration now that weâ€™ve turned this darkest corner of the solar year. Christmas is imbued with a more everyday hope as well, a recognition that the transition from sleep to waking always carries with it the immeasurable gift of a new day. The very premise is hopeful. No one expects to wake every day as joyfully as a child at Christmas, or to sleep as badly the night before. The gift of possibility is there every morning.
For those who share my fascination with French-Jewish history, “regeneration” obviously jumps out, although the use–if not the context–here is quite different. But, um… “Ask any child” about “the cadence of a few verses from the early chapters of Matthew and Luke”? In New York City? Really?
The language of universality, of how “No one expects to wake every day as joyfully as a child at Christmas,” and how Christmas “captures the most basic rhythm of our lives,” is poetic but bizarre, along with the persistent use of the first person plural. What kind of horrible person’s heart doesn’t soften upon hearing the word “Christmas”?
Admittedly a good number of non-Christian New Yorkers go in for the tree-and-gifts celebration, and still more enjoy a day off from work whenever one’s offered, but what this editorial evokes is something between a New England WASP fantasy and an Old Navy commercial, not Christmas as it is nondenominationally understood. This editorial is a story that takes place in a house, not an apartment, but quite possibly in an L.L. Bean catalog. The characters are a multigenerational family of Christmas adherents and, presumably, a golden retriever.
So why is any of this a problem? It’s simple, just like Christmas: For Jews who are truly bothered by Christmas, and who want to live in a country where the inconvenient days when everything shuts down are at least our own holidays, there’s Israel. For Jews who’ve fallen head-over-heels for the Ralph Lauren lifestyle of let’s-overshoot-the-mark assimilation, there’s nearly all of America. For those who can deal with the Christmas music and decorations for a couple months but would prefer to rest assured that they are not the only non-participants, there’s New York City. What this editorial does is place the Times, a representative of the city, on the same side as Huckabee in the “War on Christmas.” What I want to know is, why?