I Love Christmas - by Rabbi Jamie Korngold
Admittedly, this may not be something you frequently hear a rabbi say, but there it is. I love Christmas.
Let me explain.
It’s not the lights, the cards or the gifts that I love. It’s not the Christmas carols, or the glittery trees. It’s not even the cookies, although admit I do love homemade cookies and Christmas is a great source for them.
No, I love Christmas because King Soopers is closed. And so is Best Buy and Whole Foods and Target and every other store. I love Christmas because my husband doesn’t have to go to the office and I don’t have to work.
I love Christmas because my children do not have to go to school or to music or to gymnastics or the doctor or get their haircut.
When my five year old Sadie asked me why everything was closed on Christmas, I tried various explanations but what finally made sense to her is when I said it was the whole country’s day of Shabbat. “But they only have Shabbat once a year then,” she said. How true I thought. And how unfortunate.
Christmas is the one day where (almost) everybody gets a day of rest, a day of separation from work. A day where (almost) the whole country focuses on family and friendship.
On Christmas, the country gets to experience a piece of what my family experience every week on Shabbat.
When Shabbat begins on Friday night and until it ends on Saturday night, my family chooses to separate ourselves from the commerce of the world. No email, no work and definitely, no errands. If we run out of milk, we don’t go to the store to buy more. Instead we discover that actually we can make do without milk.
Shabbat is time to spend with family and community, stepping back from the frenzy of the work week. We have put certain restrictions upon ourselves to preserve this bubble. Our Shabbat is internally driven. We could go to the store to buy milk, but we select not to. Sometimes it’s tempting to give up our Shabbat restrictions and go to Costco and get the errands out of the way.
But we don’t.
We don’t because ultimately the peace that comes with taking a day off each week far outweighs the benefits of getting the shopping done a day earlier or even the delight of pouring steamed milk into my hot tea.
Christmas comes with an externally controlled cessation of work. We have no choice but to take a day off. Even if I want to go buy that milk, I can’t.
And unlike on Shabbat on which people who call or email and are annoyed not to reach me, on Christmas no one expects a call back. I like the shared quiet of Christmas without full parking lots and busy roads. I like the mutual consent that we all get a day off.
The gift we all receive on Christmas is the experience of a day off. Christmas arrives shortly before the new year begins, just in time for us to ask ourselves if we might like to build a bit of time-off into our lives more regularly. Maybe once a week. Maybe on Shabbat. I do wish Shabbat had that shared quality of everyone taking a day off, But in the meantime, at least we get a day of rest, family and friendship every week and not just once a year. And what a great
gift that is!