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This Day of Christmas, The Council Gave To Us......

.....an Eruv. And He'd be glad we did.

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, December 19, 2007.

Here in Boulder the Damned, we have a new crisis. A synagogue asked the city for an eruv, a word I’ve never heard pronounced and led me to a most pleasant Denver rabbi today. An eruv is the establishment of a religious boundary which, if I understand correctly, would pass unnoticed by the vast majority of citizens walking through it. All it does is allow certain activity within an area normally prohibited to Jews on their Sabbath, which would make their life easier on that day. It passed City Council 5-2, and nobody feels this is a big deal except those concerned that granting a lease to one religious group unveils the famous black diamond slippery slope to risky entwining of Church and State and violation of the First Amendment.

Irony, thy name is Christmas in the United States, and being less than a week away, such a request by Jews ruffles various feathers, from condescending fanatic Christians who applaud any inclusion of Biblical recognition in a government proceeding to the outright if somewhat restrained anti-Semites who fear, hate, and damn the very religion of their professed Savior. They’re sometimes the same people.

What seems like a ridiculous, recondite, and hypocritical involvement of local government to create a fantasy area for believers to avoid their own esteemed rules finds no argument from me, a guiltless atheist. But considering the bombardment of Christmas icons, music, and pageantry for about one third of the year, at this point, it can hardly be held to the same abuse Jews, Muslims, Hindus and others must endure as traditional solstice celebration here in this country.

FoxNews has been touting a War on Christmas as a rallying cry for their lip moving viewers for some time now, and while I’ve not noticed a decrease in Christmas pageantry I’d sure like to. When I was a kid, Christmas started about a week after Thanksgiving, and any display before that time was considered obnoxious. Even radio stations got through the last weekend of November before initiating a daily set list of carols that would be considered short, repetitive, and of dubious art worth by ClearChannel.

For about one month, and one month only, our local landscape changed. From drab dirty snow and drizzle in New England, houses lit up with bright lights, trees were displayed in open windows, and people sang along in their cars. Television, only about three channels in the big cities, provided hoaky, diabetic inducing specials, and dramatic series had heartwarming fare and we all watched because that’s what we did. You went to enthusiastic but often god awful school pageants, church pageants, and services on Christmas Eve where even the most mediocre choir might sound magisterial in the stone cavern of church. People were friendlier, stores had free cookies, eggnog, and tacky decorations. We gave each other presents. Very Hobbit like, cozy, and friendly.

And in aggregate, Christmas carols are beautiful, embellished folk tunes, but still lovely and catchy. Easy to sing, and little kids pick them up quick.

I had quite a few Jewish friends back then, somewhat odd because we all attended a private Quaker school. They all had humorous stories about the pervading effects of Christmas in their families. One told us when he was still in a stroller out shopping with his Mom, he picked up the carols on the perpetual store Muzak throughout the city, and startled his parents singing The First Noel or Silent Night through his meals. And of course, the church bells. And of course, the Santa in the stores. And, of course, the repeated cries of Merry Christmas wherever they went. Hardly anyone complained back then, because it didn’t last that long and there was an air of fellowship and good manners and who could argue with Peace on Earth if a war recently ended had seen the immolation of members of your immediate family. For being Jews.

But each year, the spirit of Christmas became more of a merchandising ruse, and finally a disgusting parody of itself. And it never ends. Whatever anti-Christmas feeling is felt, or pretended to be felt by supposed conservatives, can be lain at the feet of pre-Halloween strings of lights and post Valentine’s Day tree disposal. I love Christmas for all the old fashioned family gatherings and huge meals and winter fun outdoors and little kids just about melting down with excitement on Christmas Eve. I love the music and the sentiment, including the obviously false sentiment. I love walking the Pearl St. Mall and seeing two year olds agog and happy with irradiating smiles. I like corny. Still cool, but it used to be better, more intense over a shorter period, and cherished more for that.

Like so much in this country, we overdid it. Sweet understatement is not our way. Too much is not enough, is the joke, but yeah, it is. And Christmas, other than a date of no work and football, has lost its charm, once enough to unite everyone in birthday celebration of a guy who is supposed to have said: do unto others as you would have them do unto you. There was no addenda about filing correct paperwork and getting a government vote.

Boulder granted an eruv this Christmas. Entirely fitting.

Merry Christmas.