Friday, December 20, 2013

My Back Pages: Christmas

My Back Pages: Christmas: Christmas..... the very name evokes memories of family, good times, and magic in the air. I need to step away from all of the politics of th...


Christmas..... the very name evokes memories of family, good times, and magic in the air. I need to step away from all of the politics of this time that we live in. All the strident arguments about wars on the holiday, and what we should use as a greeting, and get down to what I feel about the holiday itself. 
 I think that it is a magical time for families that celebrate it, especially children. It has become both a religious holiday, and a children's holiday over the last couple of centuries. For a child, the thought of the Santa Claus coming to bring all good children gifts is nothing short of magic. Oh, they will sing the Christmas Carols, and think of the Christ child in the manger, but on the eve and the morning of that special day, it's all about the wonder and the magic of the children's Christmas. I remember being so excited that I could not sleep. Just the thought of that jolly gentleman coming to bring me toys and other gifts was enough to render me an insomniac. Even though I knew that I had not been good all year, like the song said that I should be, somehow I knew that Santa would forgive me and bring me gifts of toys (And.... sadly.... clothes!) and that we would have a magnificent feast. Oh, I used to push my brother through the missing pane in the French door that separated us from the bounty under that beautiful tree, laden with tinsel and expensive glass ornaments. I remember the joy that I felt, unwrapping each gift in a frenzy, hoping against hope, that I would get what I really wanted. It was a joy being a child. Afterwards, my thoughts turned to the baby Jesus and his family, and wondering what is was, exactly, that a baby would do with frankincense and myrrh.
 I remember the look of satisfaction on my mother and father's faces, after all the presents were finally unwrapped. They knew that, despite the fact that living day to day was a struggle for them, they had done good. My Aunts and Uncles and my father's cousins would all 'Make The Rounds', and come and have a drink. It was just a wonderful time of year for all concerned. I remember our bountiful Christmas feast: Turkey, with all the trimmings, and the wonderful pies and cookies that went along with it. No one to tell us that enjoying ourselves was bad for us. My father would usually drink a bit too much, but that just made him more lovable, even if it made my mom a little (just a little...) angry.  What we didn't have, thank goodness, was all of the controversy that we have today.
  I remember when our children were very small, how we scrimped and saved and put together all the money that we could to make a big Christmas for them. We were a blended family that many said would fail: Sheryl is Jewish, as were my step daughters, I was a lapsed Catholic, forced to be that way because I followed my heart, and my boys were baptized as well. We threw everything we had into Christmas. I remember our daughter, Alaina, being so excited that she shook. I remember the joy on all of their faces when they saw that tree and all the wonderful things that were under it. To me, that's what Christmas is all about. It's about the children, and the joy that it brings to them. I understand, and respect, the fact that it's about the birth of Jesus; but I think that he would love the joy that his holiday brings all of the children of the world.
  Now, I am a grandfather, living on a small pension and Social Security. We do what we can to make our grandchildren happy. I still enjoy that part of the holiday. I want to insulate them from all of the silly controversy that has come to symbolize what once was a season of joy. So, I will say to all of you who celebrate this joyous time of year:
 Merry Christmas! May the spirit of the season follow you throughout the year. Peace On Earth, and Good Will To All!
 John Zaffino December 20, 2013
Carmel, New York

Thursday, December 19, 2013

My Back Pages: ..One More Thing ..

..One More Thing ..

Heading Home For The Holidays
I had my rant yesterday about the use of the greeting 'Happy Holidays', but there is one more thing that has been eating away at my soul for some time now. It's the increasing political correctness when it comes to this season.. especially in the schools. Children are no long allowed to sing Holiday song. Let's be frank here, they are no longer allowed to sing Christmas Songs. Teachers are not allowed to mention Santa Claus to the children because it corrupt some children who's families do not practice the tradition. As if this mythical purveyor of good will could corrupt a child.On the streets of the towns and villages, there are complaints lodged, protests organized, and, in some cases, lawsuits filed over religious displays on public property. I think that this has just gone way too far. It causes discord and resentment between the different religions and does no one any good at all. Remember: This  is public property, and these groups are part of the public.
  As for the schools cutting out all mention of these Holidays, it's just sad. It's an overreach by officious bureaucrats and it denies the children learning opportunities. It's important that they learn about different cultures and different religions. Ignorance of these rituals and traditions, in the long run, breeds suspicion and resentment that are difficult to remedy, once a child has become an adult. I think the traditions should be taught and celebrated, the songs sung, and the children taught that, despite our differences, we are all good and that, together, we make up this great republic.
  When I was back in Elementary School, 60 years ago, I had some great teachers who helped us celebrate the Christmas and Chanukah holidays. We made Christmas Trees, we were taught the story of the Nativity, we made Menorahs and discussed how the oil to light the menorah miraculously lasted eight days. The Jewish children brought in dreidels and taught us how to play, and one child in particular, David Brandon, told us about the celebration in his home. Then, we would sing Chanukah and Christmas songs together, while the music teacher would pound them out on the old upright piano. It was a great time, and helped us to understand and respect on another. I think that this is important. I think that a short history of all of the celebrations should be taught. As I said, ignorance breeds suspicion and contempt. We should go back to these old ways that proved so successful. If you doubt that, well, I am a product of them.
  These are my thoughts as the Winter Solstice approaches, followed by Christmas, Kwanza and the New Year. We are all important to one another. I think it's time that we learned to accept everyone and celebrate the Holiday Season as it should be: With Peace On Earth, and Good Will Towards All Men and Women.
 Peace and Love to All
 John Zaffino, December 19, 2013
 Carmel, New York

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

My Back Pages: Merry Christmas?... Happy Holidays?....... I Think...

My Back Pages: Merry Christmas?... Happy Holidays?....... I Think...: Our Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza Winter Solstice Tree We have arrived at what is proclaimed to be "The Most Wonderful Time Of T...

Merry Christmas?... Happy Holidays?....... I Think Not...

Our Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanza Winter Solstice Tree

We have arrived at what is proclaimed to be "The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year" and yet, all I can see is anger, controversy and hatred. What was once a time that I looked forward to, from when I was a very small boy, right through my 50s, has turned into a nightmare. I see a bunch of hateful people declaring that there is a war on Christmas, and firing up all the hate and resentment that they can agains anyone who would dare not celebrate the birth of the Christ. The Ice Queen from Alaska screeches about it, supposedly wrote a book about it. O'Reilly, Hannity, and that drug addict, Limbaugh, use their bully pulpits to rail about this imagined war every hour of every day. People are getting assaulted for saying Happy Holidays, instead of Merry Christmas. Friends stop being friends, non Christians are being marginalized, and the season has turned from one of Peace On Earth, Good Will Toward All Men and Women, to  open season on anyone who does not toe the line and say Merry Christmas! One woman posted today that she was sick of the pettiness. She has a solution... all the non Christians can work on Christmas, and she will work on their holidays. Really? She just is not getting it either, and is being just as hateful and resentful as the rest who engage in this kind of behavior.
 I tell you, I am sick over this whole debacle. What was once a time of giving and good cheer, has turned into a time of rancor and resentment, and for what reason? We are a nation made of of different races, nationalities, and religions. We have Christians, Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Agnostics, and Atheists. We have Hindu's, Sikhs, Buddhists, Wiccans. People who have no set religion, but believe that there is something bigger than humankind controlling the world. We have all these integral parts which make up this beautiful country, and yet we have people who just do not want to accept this and be all encompassing. It is so very sad. People who profess to follow the teachings of Jesus the Christ, pick and choose which of his teachings they will follow. The same can be said of some who follow other religions. The attitude has become "My way or the Highway" I have to add that I was raised Roman Catholic Christian, and my wife is Jewish. We have been together 36 years, come this January, and NOT ONCE IN 36 YEARS HAS RELIGIOUS DIFFERENCES EVER BEEN AN ISSUE! Never. The subject has never been a point of discussion, because our love and respect for each other supersedes everything else.
 Throughout this season, there are those of us who have lost loved ones. I have one friend, right this second, who's wife has had a brain aneurism  and is in grave condition. I have several friends who are seriously ill. There just seems to be a pall of sadness hanging over the whole idea of the Christmas season, Holiday season, whichever you prefer to call it. As for me, I will withdraw within my immediate family, and at times within my own self. I will sit and cherish the memories of Holiday Seasons past, where there wasn't all of this hatred and controversy. The time before the internet and all the talking heads inciting this anger. I will say to you all, one last time before the New Year: Be kind to each other, love your friends and family, and give good cheer to those you come in contact with.
Peace and Love
John Zaffino, December 18, 2013
Carmel, New York