Erev Christmas in the Haight Ashbury

The streets started to die down just as Shabbos went out. I was coming back from a long walk with Joachim, and as I spotted my third star, the stores were closing and people were avidly scurrying. The driving I saw was far worse than usual, people tearing down the quiet streets to get somewhere on time, I guess. Masonic Avenue was like a freeway. I found it terrifying.
I’ve had many an Erev Christmas in my time, but this year I feel different. I have more going on than the usual excitement about seeing my Jewish homeys, parking wherever I want, eating dumplings, movie hopping, etc.
I’m uneasy and appreciative at the same time.
As I passed others who were casually dressed, in no rush to get anywhere – some of them obviously Jewish, some not – I realized that I felt kind of weird. Like, unsure whether to wish the guy at the cash register a Merry Christmas, unsure whether to crack a grin at the obvious Jews in the pizzeria or just let our little shared experience pass in a low key way.
I found myself wondering if my uneasy mix of emotions – giddy about being an abject outsider and discomfort at how to sit casually with that feeling – is familiar to a secular (or otherwise non-Jewish) citizen of Israel on a festival or Shabbat, even. Walking around in the quiet streets, do you feel a sort of kinship with other secularists, a secret glee at being on the outside? Is that mixed with discomfort, guilt, or possibly even anger at the religious culture? I’d imagine all those things might be present. I have no idea, not having lived in those shoes. But I’m interested.
Sure, I’m going out later to a Jewish party (Hip Hop Chanukah, anyone?) but now I feel struck by the Shabbos of sorts that the goyim are experiencing. I feel genuinely happy for them, and I wish that the culture-at-large got to experience this sort of beautiful calm more often, where people smile at strangers, exchange ritualized greetings and go to friends’ homes to eat amazing food, sing songs and drink lots of wine.
As I read about evangelical Christian group’s hopes to take the so-called “War on Christmas” meme even further next year to actually cut down on gift-giving amongst adults, I found myself applauding them. This is something that as a religious person, I support. Bring the meaning back to your Christmas celebrations, and you will probably bring it back to your whole spiritual life and that of your family and your community. If a ripple of meaning can be created that spreads across the culture in a respectful way, staying out of public institutions (which I admit is unlikely), the world can only improve. These efforts deserve our respect and tentative enthusiasm.
So I’m going to get ready to shimmy with my people down in the Mission. All this thinking will drop away with a little Slivovitz, I figure. I certainly welcome your comments on any of this, and reports from your cities as well.
Shavua Tov, and to all a good night.

4 thoughts on “Erev Christmas in the Haight Ashbury

  1. Hey Now!
    My fiance and I will be on Haight Street tomorrow afternoon. I live a little north of SF, in Vallejo but really enjoy long walks in Golden Gate park, usually walking along Haight to Stanyan, near Amoeba Records… Havent been to the city in over a year, but really like some of the resturants. We may go to North Beach Pizza or the Thai Noodle place near Masonic.
    Happy Channukah, and have a Blessed Xmas…
    I have the week off! YAHOO!

  2. Ay, I don’t really care what they do… as long as they leave *us* (me? am i by myself in this? perhaps.) alone with their X-ian proselytizing and Yushkie psychobabble/spiel.
    And to all a Lila Tov…

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