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Q-Notes’ holiday memories
LGBT community members in the Carolinas share tales about their seasonal experiences

by Little Shiva

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Cwissmas with Hot Rod
Hot Rod is my 93-year-old Danish grandma and she loves her some Christmas. Or, as she says it, “Cwissmas.” She came to the states when she was 14, back in 1926, but Christmas to her still conjures memories of deep snowdrifts, church bells ringing all across the Danish countryside, trees decorated with real wax candles and heart-shaped woven paper goody bags. In Denmark of the 1920s children weren’t allowed to see holiday decorations until the Christmas Eve dinner had been eaten and the family went into the living room to open presents.

My grandma shakes her head at today’s last-minute shoppers and says “no one would dream of shopping on Cwissmas Eve in Denmark.” At least not in the Denmark of her memories.
For me, it’s been an on-and-off kind of thing. Of course, when I was a kid, it was all about the presents. I think it was 1970, when I was six, that I had my heart set on a paisley pop art kiddie suitcase and a pair of white patent-leather go-go boots. I yes-ma’amed and no-sirred my little butt off for at least a month to make sure I’d get those two coveted items (it worked). In 1971, my parents tried a novel gift-distributing tactic and just piled all the presents for me and my kid sister into two big boxes decorated with gift-wrapping paper and with our names drawn on each box in bold black letters. I was stunned at the change in gift display, and ungratefully announced that I hated it. After all, it looked like there was so much more when it was all scattered under the tree.

In ’72, the family decided to take advantage of my dad’s military “space available” travel options. He told us to pack for any kind of weather and go with him to the airport: for the two days we spent there waiting for our name to be called, he took us around with the new cassette tape recorder he’d bought just for the occasion, creating a sound documentary of our trip. I held the microphone up to the hinges of creaking doors, people’s shoes clicking by on the tiled floor, cans of TAB dropping out of the vending machine, and who knows what else. I still have the tape: maybe I’ll listen to it this year. Once we finally got a flight, we ended up in Hawaii, in some surprisingly decent military quarters. I’ll never forget the tropical evergreen we used for a tree that year. It looked like it was made out of big fat extra hairy pipe cleaners: I loved it.

Then I grew up, moved away from home, and went to Manhattan for art school. For the 17 years I lived there, I barely celebrated Christmas. Wasn’t really interested. But coming to live with Hot Rod has me appreciating the tradition again. Baking’s already begun: she makes a mean Danish pastry, and we’re on the lookout for Long Island duck, which she cooks with apples and prunes. She’s got a bag full of hand-knit hats and dish cloths to give out as presents, and a week or so before the main event, we’ll set up the little silver tree I bought at Mike McGuire’s funky NoDa vintage shop, New Waves of Joy. My tranny wife Jenn will get a present from her mom which silently acknowledges what mom can’t bring herself to confront in daily life: the fact that her firstborn son wants to be a girl. Maybe it’ll be hoop earrings this time, or a dainty silver bracelet. Of course, Jenn can always count on Hot Rod to give her panties.

Happy Chanukwanzamas!
by Allen Sendler
In December of 2003, we held a multi-cultural holiday celebration at Charlotte’s LGBT Community Center. As a Jewish man, I was asked to speak about Chanukah, the Festival of Lights. This is the story I told:

A long time ago, in a land far, far away, the Syrian-Greek regime of King Antiochus sought to pull it’s Jewish citizens away from Judaism. He wanted to assimilate the Jews into Hellenism, or Greek culture. Antiochus outlawed all aspects of Jewish observance, including the study of Torah.

During this period, many Jews assimilated into Greek culture, taking on Greek names and marrying non-Jews. A small band of Jews took to the hills of Judea in open revolt against this threat to Jewish life. Led by Judah, the Maccabees waged guerilla warfare against the much larger Syrian army for three years. These courageous rebels won the battle and drove the foreigners from their land. When they reclaimed the holy temple in Jerusalem, in December of 164BC, they found it in shambles. It had been defiled and desecrated by foreign soldiers. They cleansed the temple and rededicated it. When it came time to relight the Menorah, only one small jar of blessed oil could be found, enough for just one day of light. But that small amount of oil burned for eight days, until a new supply could be obtained. From then on, Jews all over the world have celebrated Chanukah for eight days in honor of that historic victory, and the miracle of the oil.

In my own life, Chanukah reminds me of my reconnection with the faith of my ancestors. I was born and raised in a Jewish family in New York City. My grandparents were Orthodox, my parents were not, and they raised me with a nominal connection to Judaism. When I left New York to go to college, I left Judaism behind and I have lived most of my life in a predominantly Christian world, with no connection to any religion. In 2002, I became aware of a spiritual void in my life and I started attending services at Temple Beth El. I was made to feel most welcome as a Jew who is also gay.

Reform Judaism encourages us to be the best humans we are capable of being and to do whatever we can for others. This is the way I am shaping my life.

Every year at this time I now join my Christian and African-American friends in commemorating Christmas, Chanukah and Kwanzaa.

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