Of wooden soldiers and crèches and courtesy


By chance and the kindness of a friend, who had an extra ticket, I saw the Radio City Music Hall Christmas show last Monday. The last time I saw that show, I think it was still accompanied by a movie.

There were some new offerings, including a neat one about a mom and her daughter playing a video game, and some 3-D videos. Of course, there were plenty of set pieces, including the always-impressive “Parade of the Wooden Soldiers” with the Rockettes. “The Living Nativity” has endured as well, complete with Mary, Joseph, the Infant Jesus, the shepherds, the sheep, the Magi, and their dromedaries. By the way, if you are really lucky and are near the Music Hall early in the morning, you’ll see those great, marvelous Arabian camels taking their morning walk. That’s a picture you’ll want to capture.

Isn’t it interesting that with the fuss every Christmas about Nativity scenes on municipal property, the concerns about the expression “Happy Holidays,” and all the rest of the noise, “The Living Nativity” endures? It wouldn’t be in the show if people didn’t love it so much. Now, of course, the Radio City Music Hall in not municipal property and there are many shouts of “Happy Holidays” in the show, but I think we can take some lessons.

If we love something enough, we can protect it – not by shouting and suing but by bearing witness to it. And we can all do our bit.  Think about your Christmas lawn display. Do you have a crèche (not one of those dreadful inflatable ones) out there? Do you have a crèche in the house, in a prominent place where your guests can see it?

When you come to Manhattan with your friends of other faith traditions and go to see the Rockefeller Center tree, do you invite them to see the crèche nearby at St. Patrick’s Cathedral? It will be up by the end of next week. And if you miss the live camels at Radio City, you can always check out the very large wooden one in the Cathedral. He has to be seen to be believed.

None of this is proselytizing or forcing your beliefs on other people. It’s just saying who you are.

Now, if you’ll permit me: a word about “Happy Holidays.” There are so many faith traditions in this country, especially here in New York where I live, and it’s nice when we can acknowledge someone’s religious holiday. For example, most New Yorkers like to say “Happy Chanukah” to our Jewish friends.  However if we are not sure of another person’s religion, “Happy Holidays” is a way to avoid offering some one felicitations for a feast he or she doesn’t observe. Sometimes, saying “Happy Holidays” is just good manners.

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