After a year marked by turmoil and strife — the equally hopeful/anxious Arab Spring, a world economy that, despite predictions, still seems to be spiraling out of control, an election season that's been marked by a carnival spirit — it's quite pleasing to realize that our city provides its inhabitants with lovely pastimes to forget about all the doom and gloom that's cropped up throughout the world.
It's particularly satisfying to realize that our communal institutions have thought to provide Jews with a variety of celebratory outlets.
This was not the case in Philadelphia when many of us were growing up. There was nothing really to do on Christmas except stay at home and mope and watch whatever was on TV that didn't have a Christmas theme, which was pretty thin gruel indeed. That's why, they say, the tradition of going out to the movies and a Chinese meal was born — here and elsewhere.
But now there's lots more to choose from. If you've followed the Exponent's Community Calendar the past few weeks, you've seen enough going on for Jews during the Christmas weekend to merit a separate pullout section. Lots to do Jewishly while everyone else in the world seems to be celebrating something else.
In addition, if you check out our story this week about being Jewish at Christmas, you'll discover how thoroughly people enjoyed themselves at a plethora of events targeted for young adult Jews in particular. An appearance by the indomitable Matisyahu — sans facial hair — simply added to the Jewish revelry.
And now, as we approach the dawn of 2012, we might ask: Yet another New Year?
For some Jews, secular New Year's events can seem redundant. Didn't we just go through all that resolution-making and introspection back in September and October — and with far more meaning and resonance?
Yes, of course, we did. And yes it had unsurpassed meaning. But does celebrating one new year, even such a devout one, negate the other?
In reality, Judaism marks several new beginnings in its religious calendar, so what's wrong with adding another fresh start outside the lunar calendar?
Celebrating secularly — through not to excess, of course — can be lots of fun. We should appreciate the opportunity for this kind of concentrated merrymaking after the turbulent year we've had in 2011, to say nothing of what may turn out to be a bruising political season ahead.
Those who experience a sense of deja vu, secularly speaking, can use this marker to look back to September and see how you've been doing spiritually — and make adjustments, if necessary.
For all of us, let's celebrate wisely — and have a happy and healthy 2012!