Blog: Happy Holidays

I was going to write a bah humbug column about how we should celebrate Christmas every four years like leap year; how listening to “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” is driving me bananas; and how frustrating it is to receive a greeting card from somebody I have never heard of named Sue in Atlanta. 

And trust me when I tell you, my tribe’s holiday — The Festival of Lights — wasn’t going to escape my attention either. I planned to ask why my people — who produced George Gershwin and Irving Berlin — couldn’t do better than “Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel / I made it out of clay.” (Give me a break!) And with all our Talmudic scholars, why we couldn’t even come together and agree on how to spell our holiday? Is it Chanukah, Hanukah, Chanuka or Hanukkah? How are we going to compete with Christmas when we don’t even know how to spell our own holiday?

And then something happened out of the blue, which unalterably changed my perspective. Malibu’s own Maria D’Angelo — head of the Children’s Lifesaving Foundation — invited me and my bride to attend and participate in its annual Christmas party. Earlier this month, more than 100 at-risk youth and  families arrived at the Hess Kramer Camp, located on Yerba Buena Road, just up from the PCH.

Maria and a slew of volunteers — including Malibu students and their parents — made certain the kids had a wonderful time. After breakfast, the children danced, played games, engaged in arts and crafts, and then gathered outside for a barbecue lunch. At first hesitant and nervous, the boys and girls quickly relaxed and laughed for much of the day. The highlight was a visit from Santa, who gave each child a huge bag of toys to be opened on Christmas Day. 

An ecumenical spirit pervaded the day’s festivities. Hess Kramer is a Jewish camp, bagels were served during breakfast and Santa was played by Mark Kramer — what more can I say!

The event wiped out my cynicism. To see those kids with their big eyes and bigger smiles was my gift for the holidays. So I am going to sit down and have my last plate of latkes (potato pancakes) and my bride and I are going to listen to Nat King Cole with his velvety voice sing “Chestnuts roasting on an open fire … ”  (I know — no open fires in Southern California, even on the holiday.) 

Merry Christmas!

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