It is very hard being a Jew this time of the year. You don’t celebrate Christmas. You try to conform. You bring in food for the holiday party. You bring in a gift for the Yankee swap. You try and put up with the Christmas carols in the stores while you are food shopping. Even the blogosphere is all Christmas, all the time. Everybody getting ready, getting ready. But you aren’t getting ready for anything. Well actually you are getting ready for it to be over so that normal life can resume.
I still remember when I was a child, all the things I did to try and celebrate Christmas. Once after Christmas was over and trees were being discarded, I went around my neighborhood and removed the leftover tinsel from the trees and brought it home. I made my little brother stand in the corner while I decorated him with the found tinsel. I was that desperate.
Another time, I found a red bow in the trash, attached it to a pine bough from a tree in my yard and hung it on the front door. I thought my mother would die of a heart attack. She ripped it down and said we don’t celebrate Christmas. End of story!
So needless to say, when I got married the first time, my husband was not Jewish. Christmas was a big deal for his family. Of course I too went nuts. I made ornaments from felt and wood. I made gifts and decorated the house and the tree. And every year as the kids got older, the tree got bigger. The gifts were no longer hand made. There were nintendos, toaster ovens, computers, electronic games, and boxes and paper everywhere.
When we lived in Florida, Christmas was especially hard because every year my very Jewish parents would come to visit to get out of the cold. They made sure to tell us that there were to be no signs of Christmas anywhere in the house or they wouldn’t come over. So the day after Christmas we would scramble to take everything down. It wasn’t easy! But we managed. Although one year I seem to remember seeing a stray piece of tinsel in the corner of the living room and hoping they wouldn’t notice.
So now, my adult children are used to Christmas. My daughter has a tree and decorates her house with all manner of Santas, nativities, and pine boughs both real and fake.
We still have a nice family dinner with turkey and all the fixings at my house. My parents come.
We can’t call it Christmas dinner though so we call it Second Thanksgiving.