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Nadworny: Celebrating Different Traditions

12/18/09 5:55PM By Rich Nadworny
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(HOST) The holiday season is full of people honoring different things. Commentator Rich Nadworny wishes there were more ways to connect the different holidays.

(NADWORNY) In my house, December is a busy time for my cross-cultural family. This time of year feels like one continual, non-stop celebration. My kids move between the cultures, languages and celebrations with ease. When I was a kid, things were a lot different.

As a Jewish kid growing up in Burlington and celebrating Hanukkah, I missed the whole Christmas thing. You know when you have the feeling there's an amazing party happening somewhere, and you either can't find it or aren't invited? That's what Christmas felt like.

The hardest part, as a kid, was the singing. In those non-PC days, we sang all of the Christmas songs in school. I loved singing, but it was problematic with all of those Jesuses and Christs popping up in almost every song! Just to be safe, I hummed over them instead, like in "Mmm, mmm, the Lord."

When I moved to Sweden after college I found a very different Christmas culture, one that was less commercial and where song played an even greater role. One of the biggest differences in Sweden was a new holiday, Lucia, that they celebrated on December 13. Lucia was a celebration of light in a very, very dark month. And I mean dark. Hmm, a December holiday celebrating light? Now that was something I could understand.

Now, mind you, instead of candles on a menorah, the Swedes put the candles on crowns placed on top of the heads of pretty Swedish girls. Not exactly the same - but, again, something I could appreciate. And the singing! Those Lucia songs were just beautiful.

I lived in an apartment building on Söder, the southern island of Stockholm. The building had an amazing inner yard. We had a lot of communal activity there, including a choir. Back then, at least, choir was the biggest recreational activity in Sweden. On Lucia, the choir would get up early and sing Lucia songs in the yard, waking us up as some kind of angelic alarm clock. Little kids would run upstairs and offer us gingerbread cookies.

There was one song that I loved. Somehow it just struck a chord in me. Fast-forward to today and my little kids as my wife teaches them the Swedish Lucia songs.  I start looking online to see if I can find my song. And I find it!  Only I find the original version. Not the apparent Swedish translation. The name of the song is "See, the conquering hero comes!" And it's from Handel's opera "Judas Maccabeus." It turns out that my favorite Lucia song is about... Hanukkah.

Seldom in life do things come together like that. Our family's Swedish/Jewish/Christian/American traditions resolved in one perfect combination of religion and celebration. If only we could solve all religious conflicts like that!

So whether you're celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, or Kwanza; whether you honor the winter solstice or snow on the mountain; or whether you simply revel in extra days off work, here's wishing you and yours a Happy Holiday.

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