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to tree or not to tree? warning LONG

post #1 of 14
Thread Starter 
I grew up in a Jewish home. My southern belle wannabe Methodist mother converted to Judaism when she married my NY Jewish father and the four of us were (in the beginning ) raised Jewish. But mom couldn’t let go of her Christmas tree so that was incorporated into the year, we did all the jewish holidays ( even with a sukkah some years in the backyard) and then this one anomaly in midwinter. I confess I loved it and felt no conflict with being a fairly observant Jew until I moved to the south. There was so much ignorance and confusion about Jews in the south that I decided to take a stand and banish the tree. On some years I said okay to one upstairs where no one would see it. And when the century ended we put up a tree and went to see Last Night of Ballyhoo. My mother or maybe my father drew the line at Christmas, no nativity, nothing Christian on the tree no easter etc, just the tree. And so I grew up and even rationalized it as borrowed from the pagans anyway. Well this year in Portland we have a stupendously high space in which to put a very large tree – a winter solstice tree- and I am conflicted about doing this. First it’s a lot of work and I will do the main job as my husband won't get here until the 23rd and that night we have a ballet performance to attend. So that means I must buy the tree and put it up – I am sure I could grab a friend to help me get it in a stand a tied to the wall because my cat's s reaction to the tree is a total unknown. And then I have to do the lights etc and have the ornaments all ready for jim to help trim the tree on the 24th. And second it’s a REAL pain to take down and put everything away. do I want to be sucked into the potential stress of Christmas again? As much as I loved it , it is a time fraught with stress: pregnancy loss, reaction formations, family memories, are we sharing the load? Is jim merry enough? Why do I do all this work when it’s not MY holiday? I mean I guess I have to own it and do it for me and if I can get to that point I wont have any built up. so if I put one up it should be for me... like on the 20th but then I would decorate it myself because if I wait for jiom I will begin to feel I am doing it for him, yet if I don’t wait I will be robbing him of something? Or do I invite other jjewish friends and the four of us decorate it so it’s just a pagan party? You see how complicated it is? What would you do? Please write and share your thoughts, thanks.
post #2 of 14
I'm a Pagan - BF is agnostic but sort of culturally, rather than religiously, Pagan.

Most faiths celebrate something significant to them at this time of the year - and if the tree is meaningful to you, feel free to do it. It's actually not part of my Pagan tradition exactly, but BF and I decorate our dwarf apple tree and put the presents around it. Before we had the apple tree we used a huge candle stick and candle - as with Hanukkah the Winter Solstice (Yule) is really a festival of light.

The tree represents Yggdresil, the world tree, which in Norse Paganism divides the world between links (in simplified terms) Heaven (which is supported by the branches), our world (literally Middle Earth) which is pierced by the truck of the tree, and the underworlds which is connected via the roots.

If you want to look at the tree as a sort of Jungian archtype, you can see it as a way of representing our interconnectedness with the world beyond us. In Jewish terms, I certainly can't advise, but I have heard the Sephirot of the Kabbalah refered to in similar terms to the world tree.

(Many ancient faiths have a concept of a world tree - I believe the Christian holiday tree decends from the Norse practice, however. I don't believe it was traditional to cut the trees down and haul them inside, but I don't really know.)
post #3 of 14
Just my two cents....you seem to be dwelling too much on what other people think. If you're happy without the tree, don't bother. If having a tree would make you happy, go for it.
post #4 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by Skippymjp View Post
Just my two cents....you seem to be dwelling too much on what other people think. If you're happy without the tree, don't bother. If having a tree would make you happy, go for it.
My thoughts exactly. We were one of the 4 families on the block that WAS christian, so we were one of 4 houses with a tree and decorations. The other families were Jewish and didn't do any sort of decorating until maybe a few years ago when the Rabbis OK'd blue, silver and white light decorating.

Some of the Jewish families started in with the lights, others didn't. No biggie.
post #5 of 14
I'm confused. Is your husband Jewish or does he celebrate Christmas? If you are both practicing Jews it doesn't make any sense to me that you would put up a Christmas tree. You can call the tree a "winter solstice tree" but in your heart you'll know it's a Christmas tree, won't you? And if you are a religious person, why would you want to celebrate what you consider to be a pagan tradition anyway? I'm not trying to sound harsh. I apologize if I do but I'm just not understanding this dilema. Do you celebrate Hanukkah?

Hey, I was going to say you could decorate a tree and call it a "Hanukkah bush" but then I found this.


The Problem With a "Hanukkah Bush"


Small child asked his father, "Daddy, can we have a Chanukah Bush".

"No, of course not." said the father.

"Why not?", asked the child.

The father answered, "Because the last time we had dealings with a lighted bush we spent 40 years in the wilderness".


I hope you find a solution to your problem.
post #6 of 14
That sounds like a truly wonderful space to put a Christmas Tree. Gosh, I wish I had that physical space for a tree. But I say that as one who is Christian, and has had that observance all her life.

For anyone else, including you, but certainly not restricted to you, if to your mind that space begs a tree and you would enjoy having it there, go for it. Who cares what it is called! or what pagan rituals it was involved in. If it suits you, pleases you, please do it.
post #7 of 14
Many of my Moslem friends in Bosnia had this dilemma -they like the idea of decorating the house in midwinter, but did not want it to be taken the wrong way. In fact there, trees are called 'New Year trees' and are seen everywhere now, despite the objections of some fundamentalist clerics. Obviously no Christian symbols are used, but Christmas trees historically have nothing to do with Christianity and are borrowed from other traditions, like the holly and the ivy come from the Druids. They were all tacked on to Christmas in the 19th century. So I would do what gives you pleasure, and celebrate the winter solstice/new year if you feel like it.
post #8 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by rapunzel47 View Post
Who cares what it is called! or what pagan rituals it was involved in.
I care.... mostly, I just find it fascinating, I admit....
post #9 of 14
I've never looked at our xmas trees as in a christian way, i just thought all religions had a xmas tree? *needs to learn alot more*

My xmas tree just has a star on it, the way its been brought up in my house its just decoration, to put presents under the tree. For me it has no religious symbol at all, just an exitement for the year.
post #10 of 14
Oh heck, you seem to have a lot going on there...............is this really about a tree ?
post #11 of 14
Quote:
Originally Posted by fwan View Post
I've never looked at our xmas trees as in a christian way, i just thought all religions had a xmas tree? *needs to learn alot more*

My xmas tree just has a star on it, the way its been brought up in my house its just decoration, to put presents under the tree. For me it has no religious symbol at all, just an exitement for the year.
I actually believe that there are a great many people that feel the same way, with Christmas being more tradition that anything, a magical kind of time mostly for the children...but I like to drive around and look at the lights and such too I mean, look at the symbolism used in marketing today. Elves, flying reindeer, an ageless magical toymaker.....
post #12 of 14
To be honest I have a less than religious reason for not wanting to put up a tree. I hate rearranging my entire apartment to put up a tree, then taking everything down again. To me it seems like a waste of time. I'd say just do to the sheer timing of you putting your tree up (Dec 23rd) you may want to skip it this year. If you like to decorate for the holidays I'd put up a nice wreath, or just buy a tiny live tree and put it on your dining room table.
post #13 of 14
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by mooficat View Post
Oh heck, you seem to have a lot going on there...............is this really about a tree ?
mooficat hit the nail on the head. that's exactly the point, the tree just becomes the lighting bolt that triggers the other issues I struggle with at that time of year- some inherited from my family of origin and some created by me. and saying it all out loud makes it easier for me to understand. so i decided I would put up a tree before my husband arrives on the 23rd and then either decorate it with some other jewish friends during the week or we will wait till the 24th and we can decorate it with my husband and then eat a nice quiet dinner on the 24th.

so I will get the tallest thing I can find that I can handle- the space can take a 9 feet tree without being overwhelmed. Thanks for letting me think out loud.
post #14 of 14
I'm glad you were able to make a decision.
I don't think of a "Christmas tree" as a religious symbol anymore. It was adopted from pagans, as somebody already pointed out. My sister converted to Judaism before her first marriage, and she and her husband put up "Christmas" trees for Hanukkah, with Jewish symbols. "Christmas" trees are very popular in Turkey, a country which is 99% Muslim; they're called "New Year's trees" there.
Usually somebody gets "stuck" doing most of the work involved, IME.
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