Please send this Jewish girl a Christmas card! Wish me a Merry Christmas! These are the words I want this week.
There are Jewish people who grow up warm and secure in their faith, where the eight days of Hanukah don’t have to compete with Christmas. These are the Jewish nurses and firefighters who take Christmas Eve shifts to ensure that their Christian brethren are home for the holidays.
I grew up with my nose pressed right up to the glass. Like any other bird, blind to the barrier between the glowing scene inside and me, I banged and banged until my nose almost broke.
There were no Hanukah traditions in my house, so naturally I longed for the sparkles of Christmas. One year my sister and I even hung stockings. What were we thinking? That the keys to the kingdom lay in our old limp socks? Mom was out on a date; we stayed up as late as possible, until, exhausted, we went to bed giddy with the prospect of what would be spilling out the tops of those socks. We didn’t know what Christmas stocking were supposed to hold, but boy, we knew it must be pretty damn special for the entire world to talk about it. Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas!
I am certain that my poor mother either didn’t notice the socks, or cursed Jill and I for leaving our clothes all over.
In years to come I went out with my similarly disposed Jewish friend, Debbie, bought a tiny Charlie Brown-pathetic tree on Christmas Eve and put it up in her room, decorating it with God knows what. Our long dangling hippy earrings? Her mother was not happy. I spent a Christmas with my best friend Bobbi’s family, trying to be as adorably Christian as possible so they’d invite me back.
I left home and gave up the Christmas ghost for a few blessed Scrooge-free years.
Then I became a mother. Christmas reared its head again. I was determined that my children would have a giant piece of the American pie. We lived with a non-Jewish couple in a big old Victorian House. Yay! I fell into Christmas as though I were Jesus’ mother. Religion played no role for any of us: it was simply an orgy of food, presents, lights, and Christmas stockings so full we always needed an overflow bag.
However, there was always a little (big) fly in the Christmas pie. Friends, who hadn’t stepped in a church since they were baptized, said, as though I were crashing the gates of heaven, “you celebrate Christmas?”
The kids got older. Christmas became more and more of a cracked-glass fantasy. I would have retreated into the world of Hanukah, but I had even less to draw on for Hanukah, then for Christmas. I saved all my Jew-mojo for Passover, not having any Easter-envy and possessing Passover role models.
At this point, honey I’ve shrunk the Christmas. A miniature rosemary tree from Trader Joes has replaced the giant evergreen crusted with lights. Baking: gone. Orgy of presents: still there. Christmas morning is still filled with traditions, but they’re the ones we’ve built up, like bagels before presents. Cooking giant Christmas feast? Replaced by Chinese food.
It’s hard to grow up in a world where something is shining on a mountain, and it seems everyone in the world except you is allowed up. Is it such a sin to dip a Jewish toe into this ocean of good will? Or, when the time calls, to jump right in?
Forgive me my Santa jealousy. I envy those who can turn their backs, but forgive me, I don’t yet have the will to spend the day at the movies. Can we perhaps have, Chrismanakuh? Hanamas?
Oh, Santa Baby, can you love a Jewish girl?
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