It’s that time of the year again… when the number changes and people celebrate.
Progress has taken its toll, and terms like “Christmas”, “New Year’s Eve” and “Silvester” have all mixed up worldwide into something vague, often called “the holiday season”. This may include vacations, Christmas trees and pictures or dolls of the imaginary Santa Claus (a custom which is, in fact, pretty young). People are basically cheerful, with or without any relation to any specific religion.
Not everywhere though. The exception usually has to do with religious fanatics of non-Christian flavors. I don’t have much experience with harsh Islamic environment (though I suspect the same goes for there), but I’ve seen lots of foolish behaviors within the Orthodox Jewish side. As if a Christmas tree is going to bite you, or a “Silvester” party will turn you Catholic.
The roots of this phenomenon are associated with the famous religious Jewish verdict that forbids “idolatry”, or actually forbids any ceremonial behavior associated with some other religion. Other late development of this old verdict is the need for (only) religious Jewish people to produce wine, in order for it to carry the ‘Kosher’ stamp.
The local social networks in Israel are filled every year with warnings against New Year’s Eve parties, known locally as “Silvester” parties, because Silvester was said to be a terrible pope from a Jewish perspective (though no significant evidence exists for that). Many new Jewish immigrants from Russia get bullied because of the Russian “Novy God” (new year) traditional celebration.
One could tolerate extreme religious behavior if it was generally private or at least carried out by individuals only. However, religion has never been “private” in the modern state of Israel. Thus, state’s official organizations (such as the Chief Rabbinate of Israel”) have traditionally been involved in imposing the ban on Christmas trees in commercial places that seek to hold on to their ‘Kosher’ certificates.
So, a happy new year my friends… with or without your imaginary gods, or your imaginary fears from others’ imaginary gods. 2018 is going to arrive.