Thursday, December 16, 2010

Second Thanksgiving

2 trees, originally uploaded by Roberta Warshaw.

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.


Bobbie Casey said...

I love your post today and that you are honest. My best friends as a child were named Mitchell and Rhonda. We used to do everything together. I learned about their ceremonies and their holidays because they always invited me to join in and share the experiences with their huge extended family. Their dad would play manopoly on the porch of their house in the summer when we had all day marathons. It was cool laying on the cement and it passed the long summer vacation. I learned so much from them. We shared our life, too. I have had many Jewish friends as an adult. I treasure each and every one. I have been to Sedder?sp? at so many homes in my life and took my daughter along. It was wonderful. I am still friends with these people.
In this world we need to appreciate our differences and the sameness we share.
Thank you for your expression of how you feel about this. I am so glad I have met you. I love the painting, too. It is so full of good energy and grace.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for prompting me think about this. I've never thought about how difficult it must be for younger Jewish kids who are bombarded with everything associated with Christmas at this time of year. Last year we didn't celebrate Christmas, we were all really fed up with the material part of Christmas. We got together and had a wonderful day and meal and we skipped all the gifts. It was unbelievably stress free, I loved it. I hope you have a wonderful and peaceful second Thanksgiving.

Roberta Warshaw said...

Thanks for you comments everyone.

Anonymous said...

An interesting perspective! Personally I wish we would separate the Christian religious celebration this time of year from the secular celebration of the season. Each has its place and its adherents, but the two just don't fit together.

Anonymous said...

By the way, I really like that image!

Roberta Warshaw said...

Thanks, it is one of my paintings!

Robbie said...

So nice for you to share your 'side'. To be honest, I'm so wrapped up in the Christmas 'thing' I've never considered those who don't celebrate this holiday (although, I did have a person who worked for me in my former job and I would give him a Jewish holiday off, but for the life of me I don't remember which holiday that was (I've been retired 11 years so that's my excuse!). Thanks again for informing us of your practices.

mrs mediocrity said...

I celebrate Christmas, but I am not overly religious. I try to just see it as a season of hope and giving and spreading love.
I agree with you that it is too much everywhere, too early and for too long. I love your idea of Second Thanksgiving, that is perfect.

Karen L. Cohen said...

Roberta - i'm trying to get in touch with you about the BJP 2011 - making ATCs, as you were interested in my 1st posting. I can't find an email adr for you so i'm leaving this message and hopefully you will see it. Please email me directly at and let me know if you are interested or not. Have a great holiday season. Karen

Pretty Things said...

What a heart-felt post. It really made me think, and I love that you call your dinner Second Thanksgiving.

I wish you happiness ALL year round.

Carol said...

I'm 60 now, but I still remember being in grade school listening to my Christian friends rattle off the long list of presents they received at Christmas. At the time, I was amazed by it. I don't recall being envious, just amazed. And I am still amazed. Although my brother's wife brought the Christmas tradition into our family nearly 40 years ago, I never warmed to it. I still long for the days when Dec 25 was just a lovely day off.

Sandy said...

I never thought of the confusion that would result for you as a child not celebrating Christmas. The spirit seems to have taken a left turn anyway and is way too commercial.
Thanks for commenting on my blog. The stitch is just a buttonhole but you don't go throught the fabric, just under the thread.