The title of this week’s blog reflects shopping days until Christmas now, and even though the Holiday Season is well underway, with no snow on the ground and no appreciable frost in the ground, our mild fall continues here in the great Maine Lakes Region. Christmas lights are out, up, and shining nightly. Shopping is certainly rampant now, and more and more homes are showing lights on the inside with lit trees and a place to store those already wrapped packages underneath. For our friends of other faiths, this weekend marks the beginning of Hanukkah on Sunday December 6th through the evening of Monday December 14th this year. Here’s a quick primer on the Jewish Festival of Lights. The key ceremony at the center of Hanukkah, has followers on each of the eight nights lighting a candle on the branched candelabrum – called the menorah – in celebration of the wonder of a one-day supply of oil, miraculously lasting over a week for a small band of Jewish people fighting to defeat the Greek army in 165 B.C. These days people observing the Jewish faith also celebrate Hanukkah by eating foods fried in oil, such as potato pancakes called latkes. There are also customary games children play, like spinning a dreidel, and they receive chocolate coins called gelt for victory. I was blessed to learn a lot about these traditions at a young age, having had the opportunity to attend one of many summer camps for boys and girls that sprinkle our many Lakes here in the Maine Lakes Region, as they do all over our fine state. My Christian faith was in full evidence morning # 1 when I asked at the age of ten “What are those..?” as I pointed at a tray piled full of Bagles, with a big aluminum tin full of cream cheese firmly holding the knife inserted at an angle – as several kids who overheard me turning my question into a wildfire of people pointing at me as the kid who had never seen a bagel before – and so began my education in the Jewish faith. The vast majority of the kids could not have been nicer and more helpful about our differences, and I learned a lot about tolerance, diversity, and that this season starting this weekend marks when the Jews celebrate their victory in their fight for religious freedom more than 2,000 years ago. Tragically, that fight is no less important today, and not only for Jews, but for people of all faiths. Sadly, even though 22 centuries have passed since then, religious liberty is at great risk still, in many parts of the world. Christians and other faiths are being persecuted throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia, and our world could use a lot more, when it comes to tolerance as evidenced in recent weeks here in the states, and in Europe, especially Paris.  So as our Holiday Season progresses, and we have the opportunity to gather with friends, co-workers, and loved ones, let’s all focus on the most important Reasons, for The Season.  Please be safe, and we can each promote safety.  Do not drink, and then drive, and if we all commit to not let anyone do so, this Season will certainly shine.

See you ALL, next weekend!