Marking an ‘American’ Arab Christmas in ’09


My mom was so proud when we joined the Joneses and purchased an aluminum Christmas tree in 1962.

It glistened in the light of the three high beam spotlights of green, blue and red. I’d sit next to them as a kid and melt the plastic toy soldiers on them, much to my mom’s chagrin who was more concerned that I’d burn my hands.

Fake Christmas trees. One job. One home. One wife. That was the mantra of most Americans back in the early 1960s.

Our only technology involved a car — we bought a red Rambler back in 1966, and we had a Kodak silent 8 mm movie camera (which I still have), a telephone with a line that only let you talk within four feet of where it was placed in the house, a Zenith black & white television with the gold/silver stitching on the material covering the speaker, and electricity.

Very simple lives. And you know what? That simplicity made for a better family life because it meant we were not distracted the way we are today. We actually spent more time together as a family. And we knew every neighbor on our block and across the street and “across the alley.”

Not the same today. We’re too busy. I have a cell phone, laptop, home computer PC, Internet connection, digital cameras, both still and video, and Web pages and blogs.

I don’t know how I would survive in this world today if I wasn’t a writer because today’s technology is all about information and writing. Well, for many, just typing.

But there is one thing that hasn’t changed over the past half century between 1960 and 2010 next year. And that is food.

There’s more diversity in food, more variety of food and even eating habits including health and vegetarian menus. But it all is the same old food, prepared almost the same way today as we did 50 years ago.

The barbecue grill was around in one form or another then and now. But the gas oven was always there.

And food is the consistency that has kept families together.

My favorite food is lamb and rice, stuffed in a turkey, Cornish hens, in hallowed-out zucchini and potatoes, and wrapped in grape leaves.

That’s how I will celebrate Christmas this year. And let me just say this, loud and clear:


Yes, Merry Christmas, people. It’s not offensive to say it, or to greet people at a Wal-Mart or 7-Eleven store. It’s a tradition and it is also a religious icon. Why do we have to change our good intentions just to make other people happy?

But I have no problem also saying Happy Hanukkah (especially since my wife and son are Jewish); Happy Kwanza, to my many African American Friends; Feliz Navidad to my many Hispanic Friends; and Eid Mubarak to my Muslim friends who recently celebrated Ramadan.

What is our problem? We can’t just respect other people? Instead of embracing diversity we use it as a wedge?

Not me. My dinner table at Christmas will include a lot of American-Arab food — yes, I am a hyphenated American just like all of you, even though some of you won’t admit it at all. It’s the hyphen that makes this country great, not its removal to blend everyone in the assimilation blender.

I’ll tell you what, especially for Caucasians who think that diversity is a bad thing. When you blend everyone together, the end result isn’t white! It’s off-color.

Do one more thing for me, though. If you can, give to the needy and help the poor. For them, all this stuff about diversity and race and technology means absolutely nothing if they can’t even get a decent meal.

(Ray Hanania is an award winning columnist, satirist and author. He can be reached at and www.YallaPeace,.com)

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