An Unapologetic Message From Our Editor

“Merry Christmas!”

We all remember when Christmas ruled the holiday roost – it’s a subject that comes up every year now, as reliable as Black Friday. “Christmas” salutations dominated the seasonal vernacular until equality-minded people called the linguistic saturation “alienating”. “Not everyone wants to have a Merry Christmas,” they said.

While that’s technically true, these arguments always struck me as excessive: perhaps a spawn of the frivolous 90s. It’s political correctness taken to misguided, hyperbolic heights.

I learned almost everything about “Christmas” from my Jewish father. No, he didn’t sit me down and tell me about Mary and the Three Wise Men – popular culture taught me all that business – but he did revel in the festival of Christian light. God, did he love it! One particular Christmas sticks out: the year he bought a 15-foot Christmas tree. Dr. Barry Belonsky was not a man of moderation, to say the least.

That Christmas morning my father bounced around the living room snapping shots of my sister and I opening our gifts. I can’t exactly remember what I received that year, probably something superhero related, but I recall being struck by my father’s enthusiasm. And it confused me.

Of course I loved Christmas – what kid doesn’t? But I couldn’t understand how this Jew from South Africa could be so keen on a foreign holiday. It wasn’t until much later in life, after I had [mostly] outgrown superheroes, that I understood my late father’s enthusiasm. Whether my reasons and his are the same, I’ll never know.

Christmas celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ – an obvious statement, yes, but one that’s central to my appreciation for the holiday. While I may not recognize him as my lord and savior, it’s important, I think, to reflect on this man’s life. For better or for worse, this admirable, generous man’s legacy has shaped history. His charitable ways have inspired billions of people. Christ’s image brings hope to the seemingly hopeless. It would be culturally irresponsible and selfish not to appreciate such an influential figure. That’s the first reason I’m affected by this festive commemoration. The second reason aims less for the head and more for the – gulp – heart.

That 15-foot Christmas remains lodged in my memory for more than just the hard wood. That’s the last time I remember my family being together for a holiday. Well, my family in that childish context. Two of the key figures from that year – my grandfather and my father – have since died. Two more, meanwhile, have joined the Belonsky fun: my niece and nephew. It’s a pretty good trade, if you ask me. And, no, I don’t think my father – nor my grandfather – would balk at my seemingly flippant mortal barter.

My father loved Christmas because he enjoyed being with his family, a rarity for a workaholic doctor. That’s something many of us neglect to do: appreciate those we call “family”. As we all know or will learn, blood doesn’t constitute family. It’s a fragile yet necessary collective comprised of the people from from which we learn something, the people with which we laugh, cry and scream; the people with whom we are, well, familiar.

Seen in this light, Christmas becomes nothing more than a day during which we can all relax with the people we love most. “Have a Merry Christmas” becomes a reminder: a plea to enjoy the people you love, because you never know when they’ll be gone.

So, on that note, “Merry Christmas” to all and, yes, a to all a good night.