Berger’s Burg: December full of holiday cheer, traditions and rituals

By Alex Berger

Child: “Please, God, I don’t want to go to heaven if my piano teacher is going to be there — and please put vitamins in candy instead of broccoli.”

I look forward to December, with its colorful department store window displays, the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree, the Museum of Natural History’s Origami tree, snow, Santa Claus, dreidels, women wearing cheerful woolen sweaters, rosy-cheeked children, rosy-cheeked Gloria, Alex freezing at Giants football games, Christmas shopping, the heralding in of the new year and long johns.

And, I must not forget, eating Christmas dinners at my neighbors’ house and inviting them over to savor Gloria’s Hanukkah feast.

An Irish cop stopped a speeding car driven by a priest. He said, “Father, I just stopped you to tell you there is a Protestant cop at the next light.”

Readers, I lied. I love everything mentioned except the cold weather, snowfall, Christmas shopping and wearing those itchy long johns. But all told, what I enjoy most about December is its plethora of religious holidays. No other month has such a varied array of holy days.

The sexton ran into the rabbi’s apartment next to the temple and said, “Rabbi, somebody broke into the synagogue office yesterday and stole $10,000 in pledges!”

In addition to Hanukkah (Dec. 11), Christmas (25) and Kwanzaa (26), December envelopes St. Nicholas Day (6), who was the patron saint of children and predecessor of Santa Claus. German, Dutch, Austrian and Czech children hang up their stockings for gift-stuffing. Good children receive candy and fruit while the not-so-good are left with coal.

Somebody found out my neighbor was agnostic, so he burned a question mark on his lawn.

And that’s not all. There is Guadalupe Day (12), the occasion when crowds of people gather in Mexico City at the shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. It was built on the spot where 470 years earlier Juan Diego, a local native, allegedly saw the figure of the Virgin Mary.

Many people do not realize the Ten Commandments are not multiple-choice.

And Saint Lucy’s Day (13), the Swedish holiday when a young girl, wearing a white dress and a crown of green leaves with seven lit candles, leads a procession of younger children. They visit homes to bring little cakes to neighbors. The lead girl represents St. Lucia, who was killed 1,500 years ago for refusing to give up her Catholic faith. Since St. Lucia was of Italian extraction, her day is celebrated in Italy.

Put two Jews on a deserted island and in two weeks there would be three temples.

I shan’t forget England’s St. Stephen’s Day, aka Boxing Day (26), the day when a Christmas pantomime is presented and rich people box up leftover holiday food to give to their service providers.

Humor is a divine quality. That is why God made so many politicians.

And then there is “Berger’s Burg” Day (31), when I inform my readers I care for and appreciate them. Thanks, guys, for having the willingness and patience to read my columns all year.

Now the flip side: On the busy December calendar, already packed with religious holidays, would you believe there are people who do not celebrate any religious holidays? They are turned off by established religions so they carve out their own spaces in December to celebrate.

If Moses had a committee, we would have 89 commandments.

One group gave secularists a day so they would not feel left out during the month. It created another “holiday” and named it “Human Light.” Another group of atheists celebrate by paying homage to the winter solstice, despite its association with various religions. On every winter solstice (21), they exchange gifts so as not to deprive their children of this pleasure, gather for family dinners and put up a solstice tree adorned with butterflies, ribbons and a star.

My neighbor is so religious he wears stained glass contacts.

Secularists are ecstatic by surveys showing a jump in the adult population that does not identify with any religion. But statistically December belongs to the religiously inclined. Nonetheless, nonbelievers believe their numbers will overtake the religious followers. Readers, if this happens, can you imagine December without its religious holidays?

I respect Noah for building the ark and putting two of every kind on board to preserve the species, but why did he have to include mosquitoes, flies and roaches?

Bishop Fulton Sheen once said, “An atheist is a man who has no invisible means of support.”

Truer words were never spoken.

Contact Alex Berger at timesledgernews@cnglocal.com.

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