Tuesday, December 20, 2011

What December 17th-20th Means To Me: Being a Jew On Christmas

Remember when you were young, and your sibling would stand close to you while extending a finger only centimeters away from your face, as they repeated the phrase "I'm not touching you?"  Now you know what it feels like to be a Jew on Christmas.

Seriously.

Christmas is probably America's most festive holiday.  Has to be, right?  Entire communities drape themselves in various shades of reds and greens, shopping malls morph into elaborate versions of Santa's workshop, specialized holiday music dominates the airwaves, and commercials featuring Rockwellian-type family dinners that make Christmas seem like living in a greeting card are all over television.

It's a great thought.  It's warm and comforting.  But when you grew up in a Jewish household, it fucking sucked. 

In elementary school, they used to subject us to the annual, embarrassing torture otherwise known as the winter concert.  Parents would pack the auditorium to hear their kids sing numerous off-key renditions of Christmas songs about Jesus, trees, jingle bells, and whatever, with only a brief respite for one crappy Jew song about lighting the menorah that most of the Christian kids yawned through. Then they subsequently blamed me and Brian Spielman for putting them through that kind of torture, as if we had any kind of say.  I begged my mom not to go every year, but each December I was up there lip syncing hymns about Bethlehem, wondering why we couldn't sing songs in Hebrew.  Not because I liked Hebrew songs, or even being Jewish, I was just that asshole kid who told my peers that Santa was fake, and I wanted them to experience the pain that I had to go through at Jew school twice a week.

(On a side note, one Christmas eve, when I was seven or eight, I actually stayed up the ENTIRE night with my neck arched to the sky, seeing if I could spot Santa.  Of course, I didn't see him, and was all too happy to tell each and every one of my classmates when school reconvened, as if I discovered a hidden secret.  "But how did I get my cabbage patch kid?" they asked.  "Who else got me my Nintendo if not Santa," they bellowed.  YOUR PARENTS WENT TO TOYS R US, YOU DUMB SHIT! I probably said those exact words too, I cussed a lot as a child.  So, that day at Congers Elementary School was all..

BRETT YOU RUINED EVERYTHING!

And a simple trip to the principal's office was earned.  Actually, come to think of it, that might have been the first moment in my life where I was treated as an adult.  The principal and teacher never told me I was wrong, and in fact gave me the wink and nod that suggested they understood my position, but asked that I not ruin it for the duped who believed a bearded, white old guy actually delivered presents.  Let's just keep this "secret" to ourselves, they suggested.  Now go back to class and stop being a dirty Jew. 

Anyway, these days it's much easier to be a Jew on Christmas because 1) I'm an adult and 2) places are open, great movies are released, and there's more on TV than just the burning yule log.  By the way, do they still do this?  I'd really like to know if a channel still airs a burning log for 89595739857835 hours while playing Christmas music in the background.  When I was a kid, it seemed like the only thing on, and my brother and I would watch it like....

Hey look, it's still burning

... before we started playing with a paper bag to kill the boredom.

Hey, I like Christmas, don't get me wrong.  It's incredibly festive and generally people are in a good mood.  And though it doesn't bother me now, as a child it was hard not feeling left out.  And when people ask why I didn't celebrate Christmas (or don't now), as if it's a secular holiday, it's because just the thought of putting up a Christmas tree makes me feel like a fraud.  Not just because I don't believe in Jesus or God or what have you, but because I never had it, so to suddenly embrace it wouldn't seem genuine.  So, it will remain something that I admire (for lack of a better word) from afar.  If I do get married to a shiksa one day and have little gentile children, then perhaps I'll start celebrating it.  But I'm sure it will still feel weird even then. 

So, on that note, Merry Christmas everyone.  And sorry to tell you, Santa still ain't real. 

11 comments:

  1. You're awesome. And I love your blog posts

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  2. Merry Christmas, Brett! :) Enjoy your movies etc. - It's not that special a holiday really, though. Just an excuse to consume and eat way too much :)

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  3. i dunno...Christmas in Kuopio sounds fun! I do need a new printer

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  4. You got 8 days of presents. I don't want to hear the whining.

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  5. For this Jew, Christmas always meant a trip to Boca Raton and dinner and dinner and video games at Wilt Chamberlain's restaurant. And wondering why my friends were never terrified of an old guy who could break into their house through their chimney. It was amazing.

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  6. Nicole, you probably knew half my high school then! I think we spent a christmas or two at disneyworld, but for whatever reason, my main memories of Xmas as a child are of being home and bored

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  7. I always ran into friends from the all girls Jewish sleepover camp I attended every summer in Boca. I just assumed that's what all of the Jews did for Christams!

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  8. We are a predictable bunch, arent we

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  9. If you had told me ten years ago that I'd one day be celebrating Christmas, complete with lawn decorations, a fully decorated tree, and presents marked with "From: Santa" stickers, I'd have called you a dirty liar and punched you in the face. But I have to say, I've definitely drunk the Christmas Kool-Aid, and I really enjoy the holiday now. A kid definitely makes the whole thing more fun.

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