“It’s unfair that we have school on Rosh Hoshannah and Yom Kippur,” I always think to my Episcopal school-attending, Jewish self every September. Each quarter, I am presented with two mandatory religious absentee days, and usually it feels as if I spend more time doing make-up work than actually attending services, repenting or celebrating like I am supposed to.
But this past holiday season, I had a change of heart with a new resolution: I’d like to start celebrating even when I am out of school for a Christian holiday.
This winter, I found myself in Chattanooga for a swim meet. With some free time on our hands, my teammates and I began to debate which movie we would mindlessly watch for the next hour or two. I, a huge fan of Christmastime, begged my roommates to watch a Christmas movie.
“Hannah, aren’t you Jewish?” they asked me.
“Yes, but I absolutely love Christmas.” I replied.
While we ended up mindlessly scrolling on our phones instead of mindlessly watching a movie, I realized something. It’s not that I am a Jew who loves the story of Christmas. I am a Jew who likes the hot chocolate and the endless supply of Hallmark movie marathons. I am a Jew who likes that whenever I go shopping, there is joyful Christmas music in the background. It’s not that I am a Jew who loves the story of Easter. I am a Jew who likes the happy environment of Easter. I am a Jew who loves the bright colors and the weather that let me know that “spring has sprung.”
I am a Jew who doesn’t mind the story of Christmas or Easter but loves the feeling of both. I am thankful for Christmas, and while we are at it, Easter too, and all the days in between. I’d rather have those days off than none at all.
While sorting through a large stack of binders full of endless makeup homework next fall, it is possible that I might return to my initial state of complaint of “religious injustice.” Hopefully though, I’ll first remember that I do go to a Christian school, but then also something a little extra. Just maybe, as I write on my next yellow sheet, “Reason: religious,” I’ll remind myself to look at the bigger picture. Maybe I’ll remember to be grateful that I’m even allowed to miss these precious school days at all. Or maybe I’ll reflect on all of the numerous times where my teachers have been understanding and extended the deadlines just for me in response to a frantic email sent late the night before my return.
Maybe I’ll remember and remind myself, my Episcopal school-attending, Jewish self, that
even if I don’t celebrate the meaning of these holidays, I can celebrate the feelings.
For & By Students
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