The Tantrum, Part 2: Why Can’t Jews Just Ignore Santa?

December 1st, 2010  |  by  |  Published in The Tantrum  |  9 Comments

JewishChristmas_2010-333x400For the moment, I’m a lucky bastard. Sasha is only 2 years old, and can’t fully distinguish red from green, let alone understand what a holiday is, and why we would or wouldn’t be celebrating it. But the Christmas/Hanukkah dilemma has been an issue in our household for many years already, and will likely never be fully resolved.

Let’s start with my wife. Jean is a Buddhist, which means she likes to decorate with electric lights and shiny objects. Christmas provides an excellent opportunity for decorating with electric lights and shiny objects. Why, she asks, can’t we have a Christmas tree?

Because, I like to say, it’s just not my holiday. As a Jew, I just can’t countenance the encroachment of this Christian holiday on my life. I’ve dealt with that crap enough already (three years as the only Chosen Person in my Southern high school), and I don’t want to give the Christians another goddamn inch. In fact, the first and only time I ever decorated a Christmas tree was in 2003, in Delhi, India, at the home of wealthy Hindus—possibly the only religion more addicted to shiny electrical decorations than Buddhists.

So: Fuck Christmas. Yeah, Bill O’Reilly, you heard me. You want a war? You got one!

Does this mean we do Hanukkah in my house? Well, therein lies the real dilemma. Because in addition to being a Jew, I’m also an atheist, disparaging of anything and everything to do with god and religion, organized or otherwise. Jewish beliefs are just about as ridiculous to me as Christian and Muslim ones, and I’ll be damned if my daughter is going to grow up superstitious. (Actually, I’ll probably be damned anyway.) My parents, and probably a lot of desperate secular Jews, would argue that I can bring her up as a “cultural Jew” who follows the traditions but eschews the mysticism. But I think we human beings would all be better off acknowledging that religion was a big mistake and that the traditions should be allowed to die out—especially Hanukkah, whose story many now view as the triumph of traditionalist, anti-Greek (hence anti-modernity) Jews over progressive secular forces.

So, naturally, as you might expect, we do a Hanukkah dinner in my house every year. With a menorah that’s been in our family for decades, excellent latkes, the whole shebang. Partly, of course, this is just an excuse for me to cook a big, delicious meal. Partly, it’s to counteract the sway of Christmas, to remind Jean, and someday Sasha, that that is not our holiday!

That “someday” is important, because eventually, in a year or two or three, Sasha is going to come to expect PRESENTS. And we’ll have to come up with an excuse to give them to her. She might even demand a tree. And so this is the plan: We will give Sasha her presents on the Thursday before school vacation begins, which gives her just enough time to open them, bring them to school, show them to her friends, and lose them on the way home.

And we will have a tree! A CHINESE TREE! It will be a small, indoor tangerine tree in a pot, and we will festoon it with hong bao (red envelopes) and maybe some light-up chili peppers. And on Christmas Day, we’ll do what Jews have done for generations: Order kungpao shrimp and mooshoo pork, and take in a movie. That’s the kind of secular sacrilege I could really get behind—if only it weren’t so Jewish.


Responses

  1. Cassandre says:

    December 1st, 2010at 12:13 pm(#)

    Let’s face it the french way : Christmas & Hanukkah are just 2 other opportunities to drink Champagne and eat foie gras.

  2. Matt says:

    December 1st, 2010at 12:17 pm(#)

    But then how are those holidays different from how I spend every other night of the year?

  3. Nathan says:

    December 1st, 2010at 12:22 pm(#)

    France has a 5 Euro foie gras burger in time for Christmas. Vive le Quick!

  4. Cassandre says:

    December 1st, 2010at 12:50 pm(#)

    Matt : they’re not, that’s my point ! In my family I also have a muslim uncle who drinks champagne for the Aïd celebration while the rest of us eat tunisian pastries untill disgust, the purpoise seems to stay a united family in hell (cause we defend value such as family, we’re conservatives in a way !)

    Nathan :I won’t take the risk to try this one.

  5. Peter Kim says:

    December 1st, 2010at 1:05 pm(#)

    There’s very little about the way most Americans celebrate Christmas that’s actually rooted in religion. In fact, there’s somewhat of a backlash against the secular celebration of Christmas among the “devout”, especially against the commercialization of the holiday. Even setting aside the traditions, Christmas itself is pretty insignificant if you look at it in purely religious terms (as I’ve heard Hanukkah is in Judaism). So by saying “Fuck Christmas”, you may actually be aligning yourself with the “truly devout”.

    As best, Christmas is about reuniting with family. At worst, it’s an annual act of economic stimulus masqueraded as a pseudo-religious celebration of a God very few people actually believe in.

  6. Matt says:

    December 1st, 2010at 1:10 pm(#)

    It doesn’t matter to me whether Christmas is celebrated in a truly religious way or not. It remains the outward image of the religion, its most (or 2nd most) important holiday, and a symbol of the Christianization of public life. I will not celebrate it.

    And in my family, we reunite over Thanksgiving, which is the kind of truly American celebration of genocide and overconsumption we can fully support. Also, we get to discuss cock and bastards.

  7. Nathan says:

    December 1st, 2010at 1:30 pm(#)

    Hey, that would be a great name for an English Pub: The Cock and Bastard

  8. beta dad says:

    December 2nd, 2010at 5:00 pm(#)

    Oh how I wish I had a legitimate reason to not celebrate Christmas. Bah freakin humbug.

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