Out of the Blue

Holiday Healing

A season in need of warm and fuzzy

By Deborah Salomon

No surprise that “the holiday season” descended on stores before the first Halloween pumpkin went under the knife. Merchants know that inflation will quickly gobble up dollars earmarked for gifts, parties, travel. Charities may suffer. Good causes will falter. Santa’s bag may be lighter, and New Year’s Eve won’t feature prime rib and Champagne.

Still, people crave this annual reprieve, especially after two holiday seasons dampened by COVID and its spin-offs.

We deserve some warm and fuzzy.

To be fair, holidays that comprise the “season” are unrelated, save for proximity. Christmas, of course, has deep and abiding religious significance, which no slapstick flick can trivialize. Yet it has been commercialized beyond belief — not all bad, many non-believers believe, since events bring people together, create memories.

Secular Christmas, it’s called — a perfect oxymoron.

Hanukkah, also falling in December, joined the trio big-time during the ’70s, swept in by diversity awareness, gobbled up by Jewish families like mine, with children who felt left out. Its symbols — candles, coins, food fried in oil — appeared for eight days, often culminating in a sizable gift on the last night.

Hanukkah commemorates a military victory, freedom of religion and a miracle whereby oil sufficient to illuminate the altar lamp for one day lasted eight.

Inspiring, significant, hardly warm and fuzzy.

Kwanzaa, which falls after Christmas, celebrates African American history and culture. The observance, initiated in 1966 after the Watts rebellion, is based on African harvest festivals. Candles are lit, special foods served, small gifts exchanged but, according to website definitions, Kwanzaa is non-religious and non-political.

My gut says this year we really, really need a holiday season. The world is in terrible shape. Cruel winter descends on a Ukraine with uncertain power, heat, water, food. A drought in Somalia forces mothers to trek hundreds of miles, often burying their infants by the dusty road. In Nigeria, catastrophic floods sweep away crops and farm animals. This year, we can’t dismiss these unthinkables as “over there.” Over here antisemitism has come roaring back, along with gun massacres in churches, supermarkets and, most horrific, schools. Run-up to midterm elections brought out the worst in politicians and their often rabid followers. Truth has been mocked. The nuclear threat changes everything, everywhere.

Of course other holiday seasons have weathered hard times. The Battle of the Bulge was fought at Christmas time. Bob Hope entertained U.S. troops in Vietnam. On Thanksgiving good souls feed and warm the ever-increasing homeless population. But I feel something ominous looming, a shift affecting lives and customs heretofore immune. I feel almost like Ebenezer Scrooge upon viewing a Christmas without Tiny Tim.

Or, maybe this downer will awaken gratitude for whatever remains.

So light the candles, trim the tree, fry the latkes, sip the eggnog, wrap the gifts, hug the kids, hum the carols and bring on the warm-and-fuzzy because this holiday season, however defined, we desperately need it.  PS

Deborah Salomon is a contributing writer for PineStraw and The Pilot. She may be reached at debsalomon@nc.rr.com.

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