By: Ellen Galant

In December 1970, I decorated six Christmas trees (every one of my “best friends” invited me over to help decorate theirs), and performed admirably as little Cindy Lou Who in our elementary schools adaptation of “The Grinch.”  And I’m Jewish. One might ask how did a little Jewish kid get so caught up in the wonder of the Christmas season? Simply put: by loving it.

Remember, this was long before the days of “political correctness.” Growing up in Northern Virginia back in the 1970s, almost everyone referred to the yuletide festivities as Christmas Parties rather than “Holiday Gatherings.”  This was not out of disrespect to those of other faiths, but largely because Christmas was the holiday that most people celebrated. That being said, I could always be counted upon to lead the Christmas carols. . .to me they weren’t religious songs so much as the sounds of the season. And since I was often the only Jewish kid in class, I invariably was called upon to teach my classmates the “Dreidel Song,” and explain how the game was played and the significance of the dreidel itself.

Life seemed so much simpler then. I can certainly recall times when I might have felt left out, but for the most part I felt not only welcomed, but embraced by my differences. As an adult I reflect back on this period of time and consider how my parents must have felt by my awe of Christmas and how very much I wanted to be a part of the wonder of the season. I now give them a lot of credit for the decision they made never to dissuade my interest or temper my enthusiasm. We certainly embraced being Jewish in our home by celebrating Chanukah and the rituals that accompanied it (lighting the menorah, making potato latkes, etc.), but never once did they attempt to take away the beauty and joy surrounding Christmas. And for that, I am grateful.

So, in the spirit of this wonderful and truly breathtaking season, may I suggest that each of us tries to celebrate the diversity that is among us by not only recognizing, but rejoicing in our differences, as well…happy Holidays!