I grew up Jewish in Oklahoma. There were four jewish people in my high school - two were my cousins. I am currently what many call a "Holiday Jew." The relationship I have with my religion has followed a circuitous route ranging from complete denial of my judaism based on a traumatic Bat Mitzvah experience to seeking the wisdom of my psychic acupuncturist- Nubbie.
But, for better or worse, I seem to always come back to a place of appreciation for the tradition and values that my Jewish culture embraces. It is through tragic family losses that I have realized the importance of coming together as a tribal unit and surrendering to some version of a higher power as the only inkling of understanding that could possibly justify such grief. And at the opposite extreme, I have discovered indescribable moments of joy through witnessing my nephew's bris milah (well maybe not so joyous for him) and my niece's recent baby naming. Regardless of the placement of the experience within the life cycle, I have learned to trust the assurance of love, faith, and an undeniable strength that can only be the result of something bigger than we could ever imagine. Whatever we choose to call it - God, Universe, Allah, Nothingness, Buddha, etc..faith is not necessarily about religion, but a courage to believe that we are part of something greater than ourselves.
So as we head into the materialism and stress that the holiday season can often bring, let us not forget that we are only a small part of a bigger universal picture and to think outside of our daily bubbles can often bring the true joy of what the holiday season is about.