In recent years, many schools have decided to finesse the volatility of the social mix and forego the traditional Christmas holiday assem­bly.         

I might even agree with this decision, but it gives me a profound sense of loss.        

For, though Jewish, I experience Christmas somewhere closer to a holy day than a holiday. I am deeply moved by the trappings of its magnificence and a slave to its ritu­als. It is, in some ways, for me, sacred.

The explanation is simple and deep.

Spawned by a child­hood desire to emulate her Chris­tian friends and have a Christmas tree as an adult, this December 25th, my mother will host the same family Christmas par­ty—with members of the original cast—that she and my late father have hosted every single year for the past two-thirds of a century.

And, as always, I'll find a way to catch Alistair Sim's Scrooge on the eve of that singu­lar day. And when Tiny Tim says, "God bless us, every one," I will be wrapped with a communal solitude too great to hold in si­lence; and hence, a pri­vate, "Merry Christmas," ritual­ly ut­tered from my window, well into and beyond the age of embar­rass­ment.

And then, a childhood of being awakened on Christmas by my sisters. Feigning grumpiness, we would put festive brack­ets around our primal bat­tles and celebrat­e the frag­ile truce.

And always, amid the bountiful food, a humble plate of beans, mainstay of the first party, when money was tight and survival uncer­tain; and suddenly I feel all of Eastern Euro­pean Jewry passing through my living room on their varied, often heartbreaking journeys; the grief, hopes and joys of a marked people. 

And then the relatives, shedding reassur­ingly bulky overcoats, their shields against the hostile ele­ments (they made it!); the shrieks of mutual greeting, the rapture and relief of reunion, the surreptitious head count­ing. How late we come to under­stand our impor­tance to one anoth­er.

As the generations move through that apartment—silently touching base with their private rituals and balancing their year-end emotional books—past, pres­ent and fu­ture blend. For each Christ­mas party carries the seeds of the first. And each may be the last. It is a history of threatened connec­tion, a fra­gile continu­ity.

That is the power and univer­sality of Dickens' story; it is that we all play Scrooge to one anoth­er, especially to our families. We go away and are trans­formed, perhaps re­deemed. But it is never certain who we'll be or what we'll find when we return. 

       Tiny Tim's final blessing is not, then, the special pleading of any one religion. It is the articulated echo of a sigh that spans cultures and time — a collec­tive sign of relief; the joyous cry of survival:

"Another year for us. 

Every one!"

Merry Christmas.