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The real spirit of Christmas, and the Dad

Christmas is all around, from the pleasant smell of pine trees on Montague Street to the repetitive carols piped into every store and played on every radio station.

Moving through December, there is constant talk about the values of the season. It makes me realize that I hope my children have some God in their lives.

It is not that the pageantry and spectacle of the holiday isn’t fun, especially for my Jewish family, since we engage with Christmas through the tree at Rockefeller Center and the windows at Saks Fifth Avenue. The related stories are great too — my girls know all the ghosts who visit Scrooge and have seen “Meet Me In St. Louis” and all the “Home Alone” movies.

The spirit of the season, though, is where I find real meaning and I believe that to carry this with them year-round, my girls need to believe in the Almighty, in one way or another.

This is different from religion, which my daughters have.

Being Jewish is a way they identify themselves, our synagogue a community they belong to. Religion offers a set of instructions and guidelines, but a spiritual life is internal, a moral center, a place of refuge.

If my girls have faith, then they have something to carry them through disappointment and sadness, to support them at times of loneliness and heartache.

Prayer is like picking up the phone and God is about believing something is on the other end to hear your thanks, confession, or confusion. God somehow connects you to the universe.

I want my girls to feel linked to something greater than themselves. Something that is eternal.

This may be a cop-out on my part.

It could be construed as a way to shift responsibility for my kids onto some entity, giving me someone to blame for everything my children do wrong and for all the little misfortunes in their lives.

But that is not the point.

I hope my teenagers will live their lives fully, passionately, taking risks and throwing themselves into the world.

I hope they will be caring and compassionate to their friends, but also help strangers and work to make the world a better place. A life well lived will have ups and downs, and in their joy and sorrow I don’t want them to ever feel alone.

This, to me, is what the spirit of the season is about, joining with friends and family, with the world around us, and with something greater.

This is the spirit I hope my daughters will connect with today and the whole year round.

Merry Christmas and a very happy New Year to all.

Read The Dad every other Thursday on BrooklynPaper.com.

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