All of us in the Legal Insurrection family (and it is truly a family) wish you and yours the Happiest of Christmases and a wonderful holiday season.

For you: our holiday memories, wishes, reflections, and thoughts.

William Jacobson

Today is a very special day for me. It’s the day I get to cover for everyone else, so the authors who celebrate Christmas can enjoy the time with family. Of course, the day after Christmas they are back to rowing in the ship’s hold with the other poor lost souls. Considering the day, I’ll refer you to my Passover post from early April 2009, our first Legal Insurrection Passover, Passover Is No Time To Wish For The End Of Christian America:

Tonight is the first night of Passover, which commemorates the exodus of the Jews from Egypt, and celebrates freedom. One of the key sections from the Passover Haggadah warns of the dangers in the world:

For not just one alone has risen against us to destroy us, but in every generation they rise against us to destroy us; and the Holy One, blessed be He, saves us from their hand!

Nothing has changed in thousands of years. They still rise up in every generation to destroy us, but this time the names are not Haman or Adolf, but Mahmoud and Osama. And on this earth, it will be Christian Americans almost alone who will stand with us.

I’m reminded of the bumper sticker from the 1960’s: “If you hate cops, next time you are in trouble call a hippie.” Jews, of all people, should not wish too hard for The End of Christian America. There is no one else to call.

Kemberlee Kaye

Hope. It’s why I love Christmas. As we spend the next few days celebrating the purest, greatest love given to mankind, I’m reminded again that there is always hope. Love itself inspires hope. Love’s transformative, redemptive power warms the soul, engulfs the heart in calm, and unleashes the best in each of us. Where love is, hope is sure to follow.

The Merriest of Christmases to you and yours. May you find hope this season and purpose renewed.

Mary Chastain

Ahhh….2017. I write this as my leg remains in a boot, hand in a cast, and my gallbladder is not working. But this is temporary…these shall pass. You know what’s permanent? My rheumatoid arthritis. Not many know much about this life-altering disease that’s slowing chipping away my body. It’s an autoimmune disorder: my immune system attacks my joints, but it also will affect organs like lungs, heart, and kidneys. I started treatment at the end of 2016 after months of agony and pain that kept me in bed all day. I couldn’t move without screaming, my joints felt like they were on fire. I walked like a zombie in The Walking Dead. It’s also wrecking havoc on my already weak kidneys.

So despite the broken bones, sprained ankle, torn up thumb, and failed gallbladder, I loved 2017 because I had my RA under control and finally returned to a semi-normal life. I can cut my own food. I can cook. Most importantly, I can run again. Yes, it’s on the elliptical, but it’s something. 2017 showed me that while RA is destroying my body, I don’t have to let it win. Thanks to pharmaceutical companies and doctors, RA is no longer the death sentence and life crippling disease it once was. These medicines have slowed the progress, which means I will live to old age. I thanked big pharma on Facebook and a friend said I should thank those who discovered Methotrexate and Humira. Fine, I thank them, but because of these evil big pharma companies, I have medicines readily available for me.

I have my bad days. RA has made me more of a klutz, cold mornings are still rough, and I’m scared to get a cold since my immune system is compromised. But overall, I am in control of my life, not this disease. I also try to find the positives in everything and approach situations with humor.

So important lesson: Live to your potential every day. Don’t waste a minute because you never know when you’ll receive a diagnosis or go through something that turns your life around. Don’t take life too seriously. Laugh often. Laugh at yourself. Wake up thankful that you have another day to live. Always be thankful for those around you who make your life better and easier.

This Christmas I want to thank Jesus for answering my prayers and thank the Virgin Mary, our Blessed Mother, and St. Catherine of Alexandria, my saint, for praying for me.

Fuzzy Slippers

Having lost my mother earlier this year, this is a tough Christmas for me.  So I thought I would share a moving piece I read over at the Federalist entitled, “I Turned My Coworker Into HR When She Gave Me A Christmas Card, And She Changed My Heart.”

For years I have been one of the only Jewish people at my places of employment. I am currently the only Jew who wears a kippah at my office every day. In my heavily Southern Baptist and rural town, one would think I would be quite familiar with the consequences of being such an outsider.

But, as any honest minority will tell you, that singular idea of what America must be like simply is not accurate. This image often lives exclusively in the minds of those intent on viewing the world as a hostile place, filled with bigotry

This reminds me of a woman who illustrates this disconnect perfectly. For a long time, in my early working years, I felt extremely uncomfortable around Christmas time. I was far more liberal then and far more suspicious of Christians around me.

. . . .  An older woman who worked with me then gave everyone a personalized Christmas card each year. The card even had a small, hand-placed candy attached. The first time she gave me a card, I instantly frowned with disapproval, as the cover featured a glittery Nativity scene. I tossed the card aside and shook my head at her utter lack of respect for my religious beliefs.

She did not seem to notice. The following year she did the same, with another new religiously inspired card bearing another carefully placed candy, and a rosy smile as she handed each out.

In secret, I wanted to enjoy her gifts. I would even sneakily eat the candy hoping no one would notice. I instinctively smiled inside only to force a frown on the outside on pure principle. I often convinced myself that even if I wasn’t that offended, other people might be and it was my responsibility to speak up for them.

The author then goes on to describe how, after receiving such a card in the third year, he reported his co-worker to HR and the surprising result of that decision.

The last year I worked there, she once again presented everyone with a Christmas card. This time the cover was a Christmas tree with no religious iconography. I was busy when she approached my desk and I remember her pausing, smiling down at me, and saying, “I hope you have a lovely holiday,” before setting my hand-written card on my desk.

I stared at it for a long time before finally reaching for it and opening it. It was a simple message, and she wished me happiness and joy in her own writing inside. As I held the card I felt a tingle of recognition of what she did for each of her coworkers every year when she did not have to. I felt a pang of guilt.

. . . . That wonderful lady passed away this week, and as I lit my Chanukah candles I thought of her. Despite my cold and bitter temperament, she tried to warm my heart with a small and simple gift every single year she had the opportunity to do so. She provided a moment of joy and happiness to so many people with a small act. I remember her kind face and perfume as she walked by. I remember her soft voice and wide smile. I remember how nice she was to absolutely everyone she encountered.

. . . . These days I find myself loving Christmas and the cheer, colors, sounds, and small acts of kindness surrounding me. . . .

Ultimately, the author chose not to see offensive actions or nefarious intention; instead, he focuses on the kindness that binds.

It is so easy to be offended, so easy to feel hostility and suspicion. Victimhood is attractive because it gives people permission to be judgmental without consequence and feel superior in doing so. It creates a sense of being special, enlightened, and above it all. But this merely traps people in a cycle of bitterness and loneliness as they fight the urge to simply enjoy the holiday season with everyone else. Ironically, the fact that they receive the same gift as everyone else demonstrates their inclusion in the group rather than highlighting their difference.

As a Jew, I can say that I appreciate Christians’ gestures during this time of year. Although it has become more risky over time, I encourage Christians to continue providing them. That kind woman could have ignored me after the first year when I threw her card in the trash in open sight. But she didn’t, and that matters.

Kindness matters. Even when the objects of your kindness reject your efforts, just know that deep down you are touching a part of them that they will hopefully come to appreciate in time. Not everyone will, but just enough of us can be rescued to be worth the effort. Your small act of generosity means more than you know.

Leslie Eastman

Merry Christmas to my Legal Insurrection family!

To be honest with you, I am always at a loss trying to write something profound in honor of this season. Halloween is my top holiday, as it has all the decoration and little of the stress. So, I wanted to share with you some stress-reducing techniques that have served me well this past year, in hopes that it might be helpful to those who may feel the same way.

I have discovered that harp music, because of the tonality, is extremely soothing for most people. Celtic Harp Christmas Music video has been my go-to background music during gift-wrapping and baking.

I also make it a point to have a glass of wine in front of the tree most evenings. It turns out, drinking moderate amounts of wine is good for the body as well as the soul.

Finally, I count the gifts that 2017 has brought me. Chief among those is the support of my fellow Legal Insurrection authors and our readers. I want to extend my gratitude to all of you who supported my son’s Navy Junior ROTC fundraiser, which concluded with the group making a bit more than their goal. I can’t thank you enough. Blake is seriously considering applying to the Air Force Academy for college, which would not have happened without his participation in JROTC,

For me, Christmas Eve has always the highlight of the holiday season. No matter what has gone on during the other 364 days, that one is filled with magic. I will be doing one of the readings for Midnight Mass, and I will conclude with a portion of the passage: “The grace of God has appeared, saving all.”

Mike LaChance

As I get older, Christmas has taken on different meanings for me. It’s a time to reconnect with family and friends. To be thankful for the past year and to look ahead to the next.

For me, it’s also a reminder of childhood and a simpler time. My parents were not wealthy when my sister and I were little kids, yet we had an amazing Christmas every year, filled with magic and celebration.

I hope all of our readers have a blessed holiday. I offer as a gift, this reminder from Linus about the reason for the season which has stayed with me all my life.

Vijeta Uniyal

We in Germany began our holiday season this time with a heavy heart, marking the first anniversary of the Berlin Christmas market attack. Last year, an ISIS terrorist drove a truck into a busy Christmas market, less than two miles from German Chancellor’s office, killing 12 and injuring 56 others. The German government failed to send the customary condolences to the bereaved families, sending them late-payment warnings for autopsy bills of their deceased relatives instead.

As someone reporting on acts of terror nearly every day, these gruesome incidents do leave their impact.

But report we must. At a time when political establishment and the media, especially in Europe, hushes up the crimes and silences the victims, we must continue to expose the preachers, backers, and financiers of these heinous acts of terror. We owe it to the victims.

I am honored to share this amazing platform with my fellow happy warriors that allow me to reach out to a wide audience. I am equally grateful to my readers for supporting our work.

Though with a somber heart, I wish all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

Miriam Elman

I’ve always loved Christmas—the decorated pine trees and lights, all the parties and charitable gift-giving, and the eggnog (it’s kosher, so we buy a carton every year).

Persecuted and oppressed, it saddens me that so many Christians worldwide can’t also celebrate the holiday freely and openly. This year, I feel sorry too for Palestinian kids in the West Bank who are having a bleaker Christmas on account of the Palestinian Authority decision to cancel or tone down holiday celebrations.

It’s a shameful ‘Grinch-like’ response to President Trump’s declaration on Jerusalem and one that, as Jerusalem Post correspondent Lahav Harkov correctly noted in a recent editorial, merely proves that Trump was right not to capitulate to the whims of those who routinely deny the Jewish connection to Jerusalem and who violate religious freedoms.

This year, because Chanukah and Christmas Day don’t coincide, my family has already done plenty of celebrating and I’ve eaten my weight in fried latkes and sufganiyot (the traditional jelly donut). So we’ll be taking it easy today—no big meals or parties, just relaxing with some classics (e.g. A Charlie Brown Christmas, which I used to wait to watch on TV every Christmas when I was a kid, in pre-You Tube days).

No Chinese restaurant for us (my family has never been big on that pastime for American Jews on Christmas). But we do have plans to see a movie in the afternoon. At the moment, it’s still a toss-up between the new Star Wars and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Merry Christmas to all those celebrating, and wishing everyone a very happy and healthy New Year!

Neo-neocon

When I was a child my family got together with relatives on Christmas Day, and one of the major activities was eating. This recipe had been brought over from Germany by my ancestors sometime in the mid-1800s, and it was my favorite of all the wonderful treats cooked by my great-aunt Flora, a baker of rare gifts. She and my great-uncle were not only exceptionally wonderful people but to my childish and wondering eyes, they looked very much like Mr. and Mrs. Santa Claus.

The name of the treat is lebkuchen. But it’s quite a different lebkuchen from the traditional recipe, which I don’t much care for. This is sweet and dense and can be made ahead of time. It keeps well when stored in tins.

Flora’s Lebkuchen:

(preheat the oven to 375 degrees)
1 pound dark brown sugar
4 eggs
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
4 oz. chopped dates
1 cup raisins
1 tsp. orange juice
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. almond extract
1 tsp. lemon juice

Sift the dry ingredients together (flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon).

Beat the eggs and brown sugar together with a rotary beater till the mixture forms the ribbon. Add the orange juice, lemon juice, and extracts to it.

Add the dry mixture to it, a little at a time, stirring.

Add the raisins, dates, and walnuts.

Grease and flour two 9X9 cake pans. Put batter in pans and bake for about 25 minutes (or a little less; test the cake with a cake tester to see if it’s done). You don’t want it to get too dark and dry on the edges, but the middle can’t still be wet when tested.

Meanwhile, make the frosting:

Melt about 6 Tbs. of unsalted butter and add 2 Tbs. hot milk, and 1 Tbs. almond extract. Add enough confectioner’s sugar to make a frosting of spreading consistency (the recipe says “2 cups,” but I’ve always noticed that’s not exactly correct). You can make even more frosting if you like a lot of frosting.

Let cake cool to at least lukewarm, and spread generously with the frosting. Then cut into small pieces and store (or eat!).

Merry Christmas to all!

Anne in PT

My memories of the holiday season are obviously more connected to Hannukah than to Christmas. But growing up in England I did love the special atmosphere of goodwill, I loved to hear Christmas songs played over the muzak in the shops, and of course, you can’t top British TV on Christmas! The films, the comedy shows, the nostalgic reruns…

And mainly I loved the Chanukah candle lighting ritual in our living room window (less so my grandparents’ living room catching fire from the candles!), there is nothing to replace the warm cozy feeling of candles in a window.

Here in Israel Christmas is hardly noticed at all. Hannukah is celebrated loudly and long, however, and doughnuts (the spongy ones filled with jam) start appearing in the shops immediately after Sukkot (which falls in autumn!). Children are on holiday from school and workers are almost expected to leave work early in order to get home in time to light candles – even the non-religious. There are all kinds of special events going on, for children and adults.

But the best phenomenon is the focus on Jerusalem, which after all is where the Hannukah story occurred. Particularly this year, with Donald Trump’s declaration of recognition of Jerusalem’s status as capital of Israel, and yesterday’s shameful UN resolution to denounce the US, I thought it wonderfully apt that the haters can shout and scream and stamp their feet in anger, while we Israelis and our supporters blithely ignore them as we enjoy all the festivities in our capital city – and not only on Hannukah or Christmas, but at any time of the year.

I wish all the team at LI and all its readers and their families Merry Christmas and Happy New Year – and to those who are not celebrating I wish you Happy Holidays.

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Featured Image: Originally published November 27, 2011, courtesy Linda from Tennessee]