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Christmas has undergone quite a transformation here in America. Not only do many Jews consider it a secular holiday, but so too many Christians, particularly those who question the divine birth of Jesus. And thanks to a highly successful promotional campaign by the Coca-Cola Company in the early 1900's, Santa Claus exited church-lore and became an immensely popular figure in American secular folklore.

Nevertheless, a strong case remains for Christmas being not a holiday, but a holy day.

Consider the following. The Christmas tree is a significant and potent religious symbol. Its wood is symbolic of the Cross upon which Jesus was crucified, and its evergreen branches symbolize Jesus’ resurrection and immortality. The silver tinsel embellishing its branches is also known as "Angel's Hair," and symbolizes the heavenly hosts attending Jesus’ miraculous birth. The Christmas colors of red and green symbolize the blood of Jesus shed at his death upon the Cross, and his eternal life through resurrection. Mistletoe is a kind of mini-Christmas tree, evergreen to honor the immortal Son of God. The holly wreath which adorns so many front doors represents the crown of thorns that Jesus was made to wear on the Cross — its little red berries represent drops of blood from Jesus’ body, and evergreen again to honor his immortality. The ornaments adorning Christmas trees were originally apples, reminders of the downfall of Adam and Eve which, according to Christian tradition, placed the stain Original Sin upon every human being, a stain removable only by Jesus’ saving power.

The Christian community, then, each December 25th, celebrates the life and message of Jesus of Nazareth, who preached goodness and peace on earth and will someday return to make that peace a reality. It is a beautiful and meaningful statement of religious faith which the Christian community marks with religious acts of tree-decorating, gift-giving, singing and nativity scenes.

So the information is now in your hands. What do you think? Are Hanukkah and Christmas secular holidays, or religious holy days? At this season of lights, may all our lives be filled with the warmth, wisdom and faith of tradition and God. May we renew our commitments to the dreams and visions from days of old that, one day, if we will link our arms and our destinies, all humankind will live together in the bright light of friendship and peace.

Rabbi Billy Dreskin

Sat, June 25 2022 26 Sivan 5782