Thursday, December 31, 2009

Do it the French way

Every December observant Jews who function in the larger society face a dilemma. We live among and work with Gentiles, and wish to give gifts to some of them. I feel funny giving them Christmas presents when I do not celebrate the holiday. Generally, I am not very enamored of the French - effete, emasculated characters whose butts we American cowboys saved twice in the last century and who show little gratitude. But they have a wise solution to the December gift-giving quandary. When they had a revolution in 1789, the new regime followed our lead and separated church and state. A good thing too, since countless good Frenchmen and women were slaughtered or driven out of France in wars of religion. As Justice Frankfurter said, keeping religion separate from the state is best for religion and best for the state. The French even experimented with a new calendar to replace the Gregorian church calendar. That experiment failed; the Gregorian calendar whose year begins tomorrow conquered the world because it is the most accurate calendar devised to date, including the Jewish calendar which has Pesah slowly creeping into summer, against the Torah's mandate that it be celebrated in spring. In France only children get Christmas presents; adults exchange gifts at the New Year. The New Year is thoroughly secular; how many Christians know that its origin is their savior's brit milah? All Americans, ourselves included, use the Gregorian calendar in business and even socially (When is Pesah this year? March 30). I gave my Gentile neighbors a New Year gift yesterday and they were gracious, probably realizing how awkward it would be for me to have given it a week earlier. If you look hard enough, you can find secular New Year cards in stores; they feature pretty snowmen instead of the red-and-green glitz. Or use the blank cards we all get from charities to which we contribute anyway.

This will probably be my last post in 2009, so I wish my readers a happy, healthy, safe and prosperous New Year.


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