Tuesday, November 22, 2011

How Fast will the Christmas War Start This Year?

The answer to that question is one week before Thanksgiving the wailing has already begun about saying happy holidays. Personally I don't care what you say because the answer is probably going to be FY and it doesn't have an "I" after it.

I actually used to enjoy the holidays even with the overwhelming Christian theme of which I am not and have never been a member. Then came the immediately animosity because merchants, mainly to save money and knowing they were serving a multinational community, went to Holiday Sales. What is with you people? Aren't you happy with multiple wars and have to start one at home? What happened to peace on earth and goodwill toward men? What happened to civil? What happened to tolerance?

I grew up in a multicultural community with an Atheist father. Yup, you read that right. We were poor and I mean really poor. We managed an apartment building for a Jewish gentleman who was willing to tell the FBI where they could go in defense of us, as long as we did our job and it was no bed of roses. My father worked at whatever he could find for about 2 weeks until the FBI showed up and scared his employer into firing him. At night he made repairs to the two story building of 16 apartments. All day my mother worked keeping the halls clean and all weekend we all worked doing the landscaping. I trimmed hedges. My parents mowed and weeded. In our spare time, we mediated the apartment dweller skirmishes and tried to maintain 100% occupancy. At one point may father said being a mercenary was easier work.
Then came the first, close your eyes, Holiday Season. One third of the tenants were Jewish survivors of the concentrations camps; German, Russian, Polish, Ukrainian, Czechoslovakian and Lithuanian. Two families had survived Auschwitz, so don't tell me the Holocaust never happened. Then we had the Cubans,  a Muslim family across the street with a Hindi family down the block and the bane of our peaceful existence, a Fundamentalist antisemitic Christian family we crossed the street to avoid their little demon boys. My mother never adjusted to curry on fish. I never adjusted to the prejudice. I had to run home to ask my mother if I was a gentile so I could cut across their yard on the way home from school. Half way home I decided I would just circle the stupid block as I didn't like them anyway. I have never liked prejudice. They simply couldn't figure out why I wouldn't play with them. That was when I started denying I spoke English. Being bilingual has its advantages.

The first hurdle arrived when the Cuban contingency wanted to dig a pit and roast a whole pig. You have no idea how conflicted my father was as he really wanted a piece of that pig but he knew the Muslim family and Jewish families did not eat pork, so he said no digging pits on the property. They could roast the pig elsewhere and bring over, but please don't bring it with the head attached. My mother screamed in a restaurant when a fish with head attached was served. He also figured a pig in sanitary pieces was less offensive.

That brought a complaint about the Polish lady's once a month eggplant. Let me tell you, I have no idea what she did to that poor eggplant, but you would stick your head in a septice tank rather than smell it. You could hear windows slamming shut for a block.

That was when my father brought up the man's wife's Friday fish. I don't know what she did to those poor things either, but the septic tank was looking good, and the fact that no one complained because they knew it was part of their culture to eat fish on Friday. Would she like some new recipes?

I will never forget the look on that man's face at it had never occured to him the fish (I use that description really loosely) smell was as sickening as the eggplant.

Once over that hurdle, my father suggested we all try to find something to eat that everyone liked and we would put a big table in the yard and everyone would eat together. Everyone could contribute a side dish and one person would cook all meat. We decided a turkey was the least offensive meat even though a few of the Cubans had no idea what one was. Oddly, I actually had a turkey for a pet in Cuba!

Unfortunately, the turkey fell to us and our employer even chipped in with the price as he intended to have some of it with us. My father  and our employer came home carrying a 48 pound turkey between them. It took both of them to wrestle the thing into the kitchen. I still think it was a dinosaur. I don't even know where you get one that big today. My mother swore she was stuffing a bottomless pit after the third bowl went into it. Yes, we actually stuffed the bird and lived.

This was the olden days, my friends, when you only had a oven. It barely made it into the oven. There were no roasting bags so you had to baste it every 30 minutes after removing the foil. She started cooking it around 2 AM and by midmorning, it was so hot in the apartment (we were in Miami) that we were drawing lots to see who would venture in and baste the turkey. I still think it was rigged because I kept getting the short straw. Fortunately, ovens were made to handle weight and the bird slid out easily on the rack because I only weighed 80 pounds. Death by being crushed by turkey was not how I want to go.

We all managed to have a great afternoon and evening. I learned to Jewish dance steps but the Muslims insisted only the men should dance and it turned out to be the same steps as the Greek dances I had learned while living with a Greek family. Everyone learned we were not as different as we seemed on the surface. We all had suffered. We all had losses. We all worked our tails off to survive. We all just wanted a peaceful and happy holiday without stress, enjoying our friends and family.

And guess what???? No one really cared what you called the holiday, greeted the next guy with as long as it wasn't your middle finger or how they decorated their apartment. It was an adventure to go see all the different decorations and learn about the different cultures and no one suffered a stroke seeing a strange religious symbol. I did try to join the Jewish faith as those kids were making out like bandits on the gift wagon....and the days off from school. Unfortunately, we poor little pagans always wind up towing the line and in adult life, I worked both Hanukka and Christmas so my friends could have time off with their families and they worked the Solstice for me. None of us ever tried to assassinate the other. We just traded shifts. No one suffered a crisis of faith if Jiggle Bells was played with Silent Night, though by the 20th in a department store, any caroler was subject to being beaten to death no matter what they were singing. Trust me, Rock Around the Clock would do it.

We would have rather our tax dollars were refunded rather put into government decorations. We could all use the money. All we got in school was construction paper, sissors and paste and we used our imagination to create whatever decoration we wanted. Oddly, I always won best tree, smirk. It's a pagan symbol of the holidays. Some of those decorations were strange blobs but no one said anything about the lack of talent. You greeted everyone on the street with what ever greeting suited you. People smiled. There was no black Friday sales with people camped out and crushing each other when the door openned. There were some holiday reductions but we kids knew we weren't getting the most popular toy, just the most affordable and hopefully not the dreaded underwear.

So if you want to put Christ in Christmas, put it in your Christmas and leave my Yule alone. Excuse the flowers on the Buddha but I doubt you'll go blind from seeing it and I just like lighting candles, it has nothing to do with faith. Expect a Happy Yule from me or the middle finger. This whole thing has given me indigestion before Thanksgiving because I don't tolerate stupid well.

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