It’s hard to be a Jew on Christmas

Growing up, my family often used the “christmas” holiday to go on vacation. It was onlya handful of years ago that I even realized the holiday was on the same day every year. It’s hard to be that annoyed at Christmas when you are chilling by a pool or a beach.

Then, again, we did live in the Midwest. I would see Santas and the over-saturation of Christmas stuff around me and feel mildly irritated. Having grown up in school choirs, I know all the songs and felt indignant that I had to sing Christmas songs. I used to lip sync the words that had to do with Jesus but sing along with everything else. My friend Julie and I made our Spanish teacher let us translate “I Have a little Dreidl” into Spanish so we had an alternative to “Noche de Paz.”  Some of my annoyance was actually a sense of pride that I was different. Even so, I laughed hard when Mr. Hanky and the South Park gang brought the song “It’s hard to be a Jew on Christmas” into the world.

The last few years, however, Christmas has taken on a whole new life on its own. I just happen to have fallen in love with someone who, with his family, loves Christmas more than just about anything else. He is probably the only person under the age of 40 who anxiously waits for COIT96.5 to start its all-holiday-light-rock-broadcast a few weeks before Thanksgiving. My first Christmas with their family saw my jaw constantly dropped at the sheer volume of gifts and decorations. I now live in a house that has to reserve at least three large plastic bins for all the holiday decor and its proper storage.

Now that we live together, I am on my second Christmas tree. Last year, we went to the lot to choose our tree. And I kind of lost my mind. I couldn’t put into words what I was feeling but I couldn’t stop the tears either. The tree, itself, was grand and smelled good. I like hanging out by its lights and having ornaments that remind us of moments in our relationship. But something about having that tree really hit me hard. This year, I am proud to report, I picked out the tree without a single tree. I even did a bunch of the house decorating on my own!

And I will admit, even with a hint of stubbornness, that the holiday spirit can be kind of contagious. The other day, I took my coworkers out for a night of food and celebration. Earlier in the day I had offered one of them full time employment. We reflected on the year, shared holiday plans, and laughed a lot. I came home elated. My sweetie’s response was- You found the Christmas spirit! Maybe I had.

I also had a blast doing a holiday number (sans any reference whatsoever to Chanukkah) with Kentucky Fried Woman. I made us snow ball hair pieces and holiday pasties and loved the whole experience.

And I really do love the joy that Christmas brings so many people. I love my sweetie and I love that the other night he led (yes LED!) me in a jitterbug to the lights of the tree as Jingle Bell Rock played.

Despite all this, something remains hard about being a Jew on Christmas. Yesterday, we went to a holiday concert which really was a Christmas concert given that more than half of the songs sang about Jesus and the other half had the word Christmas in them.. Folks were expected to stand during some of these songs. I felt more like I was at Church than at the Symphony. I started imagining taking our future, as-of-yet non-existent kids to a similar event. And how my sweetie will likely have them dressed in Christmas adorable-ness. They won’t pause at the words about the savior and the king and hallelujah’s. Christmas is part of my life, now, to stay. And our family will have yearly portraits in front of trees or lights or presents or whatever. And again, I found it hard.

There is such widespread Christian hegemony, that I feel almost invisible during Christmas; and now that I actually celebrate it in one way or another, even more so. Because no one, would ever look at us, our house, or me and do anything but assume that I am a Christian. And that feels hard.

And now, I am not sure what to do with all of these variant thoughts. I do, however, have to go start Christmas dinner.


About fairymere

Radical, Foodie, Performer, Activist, Reader, Jew, Fairy, Muppet, Aspiring Gardener, Appreciator of Sparkly things
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2 Responses to It’s hard to be a Jew on Christmas

  1. Sady says:

    It’s nice to read your thoughts on this, hegemony and invisibility are things I think about often, especially lately getting older and confronting shifting expectations about “professional presentation” and “polite conversation” in more and more areas of my life (things that aren’t visible and that people don’t talk about enough: sexuality, radical feminism, nonviolence and social justice ethics). I remember seeing a note that you were picking out a Christmas tree and wondering how you and A were navigating mixed-faith partnership… You are such a good teacher of Jewish traditions, I’ve no doubt you two will find balance with little ones to come. I picked up so many Hebrew words from you when we were in college and I love the explanations of the ritual practices (and feminist reclamations of ritual practices) you have shared over the years and I have to say it’s all been really helpful as I do oral history interviews in Brooklyn!

    This year is the first time I’ve had a full-sized tree in NY: E and I picked it out together from a stash of trees brought down from Vermont and I realized it was important to me to have that connection to the forests of New England and so heartwarming over what had been a rather dark autumn to have this glowing sparkling thing in our living room, including on the longest darkest night of the solstice and lunar eclipse. So our tree, to me, is part of a pagan land-based ritual and I enjoy meditating with it. The bright light on these cold dark nights is definitely some kind of welcome spirit!

  2. lisa says:

    What a great writing, Shishter! I appreciate your vulnerable sharing and honest reflections. I hear ya, shish! xoxo

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