Thursday, November 18, 2010

Christmas traditions and the Jewish roots of our faith

Yesterday, I attended a meeting here at work that ended up being incredibly interesting. I'm on a committee concerning the global civilizations course required of all students here, and the guest speakers yesterday addressed incorporating Jewish culture and history into that course. They always serve us pizza and soda at these shindigs as well, so all things considered, I had a fabulous lunch hour.

I'm a religion person. Have been since my reversion back to the faith in my early 20's. It's been, let's see...12 years now. *feels old* Anyway, I digress. I just love learning about religious beliefs and practices. Certainly, my passion is primarily for my own Catholic faith. But I also read a good amount of non-Catholic Christian literature, and secondarily, I read a bit about the Jewish faith.
I find a lot fascinating in Jewish religious practice because of it's obvious foundation and influence on Catholic worship. One of my favorite memoirs is Girl Meets God by Lauren Winner:

Lauren is a Jewish convert to Anglicanism, and I enjoyed her writing very much, as well as learning about her journey through her Jewish roots to ultimate Christian faith. She wasn't technically Jewish by blood, since her mother was not Jewish. So she formally converted to Judaism as a young adult, and the process was fascinating. I definitely recommend this book. It's a wonderful read.

Anyway, I really enjoyed the talk, and it inspired me into a subsequent Amazon search and addition to my wish list. This caught my eye (Why is There a Menorah on the Altar: Jewish Roots of Christian Worship):

Good stuff. Relatedly, I'm reading a book now that I grabbed from the public library last weekend on a search for some Christmas movies.

The author has included a whole boatload of Christmas traditions, and for each includes a short chapter on how that tradition got started. So far, I've read about Advent, angels, and Christmas carols. The Advent chapter was wonderful, noting that the word comes from the Latin for "a coming," and includes a discussion of Advent wreaths, candles and calendars. This is so seriously up my alley.

Apparently, Christmas used to be a bit of a bawdy, over-indulging kind of season, and consequently many churches did not celebrate it. Advent was a way of trying to make the season holier. Really, really interesting. A good seasonal read.

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