December 07, 2007

Mitt Romney is reading my mind.

Quoted by the BBC:

"Religion is seen as merely a private affair with no place in public life."

Hey, yeah. That's pretty much exactly it. Thanks, Romz.

In other news, on Tuesday night there was klezmer music blaring in Pioneer Square downtown. You know, Pioneer Square? Right under the glowing 70-foot city Christmas tree? There might even have been a dreidel around somewhere (though let's not get ahead of ourselves here). It was sweet of the cheesy municipal holiday folks to take time out from their month-long orgiastic celebration so that they could spend just one night acknowledging another religious tradition.

I mean, I've been given to understand that well-intentioned efforts at inclusion and pluralism have overhyped Hannukah out of proportion to its actual importance in the Jewish holiday calendar. But since I never see anyone going around trying to figure out what would be an appropriate holiday to make a big fuss about to honor all the j00z, I'm going to stick with complaining about token Hannukah festivities for right now. I mean, it's eight times as long as Christmas. Doesn't anyone ever feel embarrassed about giving it 1/1,000th the attention?

Posted by dianna at December 7, 2007 03:18 PM

My view may be skewed being here in New York City, but it's kind of a big deal around these parts. On the other hand, we also have huge-ass Christmas trees, so I'm not sure the ratio of attention paid is that much more favorable to Channukah.

It is interesting, though; My understanding is that so-called "Ceremonial Deist" symbols get around the First Amendment Establishment Clause basically by being meaningless cultural symbols. So it's no problem for municipalities to do Santa Clause and Christmas Trees, because those symbols have been co-opted as generic Winter symbols of American Capitalism. On the other hand, municipal nativity scenes aren't okay, since they're explicitly Christian.

I guess I just wonder how Menorahs and the like get in under that? Lots of municipalities display them, yet it feels more on the religious side than the secular cultural symbol side. Though, again, maybe it's precisely because it's pretty minor among the Jewish holidays.

Random side point: I was way downtown today, near the courthouse, and I saw this big van driving around labelled The Mitzvah Van. It had a big menorah on the sides, and was being driven by a chassidic jewish guy who was saying things through a loudspeaker wired to the top. He was saying something about it being a wandering service to help jews on the go who needed to perform a mitzvah (lighting a Channukah candle, maybe?). I caught a glimpse of a punch of people in the back wearing kippahs who seemed to be in prayer and/or eating. It was sort of an "Only in New York" moment.

Posted by: Zach S. at December 7, 2007 04:05 PM

Mitzvahs to go? That's so sweet. And/or damning evidence of the hectic pace of NYC life. Also, I'm glad that there was eating involved. I'm not really on board with any religion that doesn't prominently feature food. (Catholicism: no cheating. Wafers are not food.)

Posted by: Dianna at December 7, 2007 04:48 PM

I had a phase where I was going to a lot of Shabbat services at various Jewish temples in Berkeley. At one of the post-service brunches with Berkeley's Conservative congregation, I was sagely informed, with respect to religious observances and ceremonies, that if there's no food, it's not Jewish. So far, this seems to hold out (with the sort-of exception of the fasting days, except that they tend to have feasts afterwards).

Posted by: Zach S. at December 7, 2007 06:34 PM

The Mitzvah Van is in NYC year-round, I believe. I'm pretty sure I've seen it in October and March. I have a vague memory that there was indeed food involved at least once - they were selling latkes, or at least, parked next to a latke stand. So, the Mitzvah Van is indeed Jewish.

You could call a lot of Christmas traditions inclusive and pluralistic, at least, if you are a Germanic pagan concerned with secularization. I wonder what Mitt Romney thinks about Thor's Oak.

Posted by: sean at December 8, 2007 02:50 AM

Yeah, what does Christmas in America really mean anymore? You don't see a lot of light-up crucifixes being stuck on lawns among the moving wicker reindeer frames. Granted, the songs are ostensibly, a lot of em, Christian, but how often do they make you think "birth of Christ" versus how often they make you think "oh fucking Christ, is it time for this ALREADY?"

My feeling is, Christmas in America includes everyone who likes to consume. What I'd really like to see is some nod towards other traditions, like the concrete block tradition of Gene. As someone who hates gifts for gifts' sake, he is completely marginalized by this holiday. But I will still cheerfully force him to get me a present.

Posted by: didofoot at December 10, 2007 08:55 AM