(Photo via heatherwhitephoto‘s Flickr)
The other night I revisited my yearly tradition of watching A Charlie Brown Christmas, and fast-forwarding past the part where Linus uses a line from the New Testament to explain the true meaning of Christmas. It’s a weird concession I’ve made, but I’ve been doing it for as long as I can remember. Just like the box of candy canes I eat throughout the holidays, the two or three times I listen to the Phil Spector Christmas album, and the inevitable few hours I will dedicate to sitting around in my pajamas and watching A Christmas Story, there are certain things about the holiday that I really like on my own terms as a Jew. Marc Tracy at Tablet and Dan Klein at the JTA have different views whether or not Jews should celebrate “That other holiday,” but I’m split down the middle. I say that if so inclined, you should feel okay to embrace the parts of Christmas that you find enjoyable, simply based on the fact that most of the songs were written by Jews, and most of the customs are directly influenced by pagans. So really, how wrong can you go? (Actually, you could go really wrong. Be careful.)
I enjoy certain parts of the Christmas holiday, but my participation is more like Bill Clinton taking a hit of a joint without inhaling. Growing up, my family was never very religious, and during this time of year, we lit the Hanukkah candles for the first few nights, but seemed to forget by the third or fourth evening. Meanwhile, my neighbors would be putting up blinking lights, pulling little wagons with freshly cut trees, and taking part in all sorts of other Rockwellian looking activities. I became jealous and wondered why couldn’t I partake in the festivities of Christmas? I’d yell and I’d scream at my parents that we were Jewish, but we weren’t Jewish. My friend Adam’s family had a Christmas tree, and they were Jews, so why couldn’t we? I wanted to at least understand what all the other people were getting so excited about.
I’ve been there and done that: gone to see Handel’s Messiah several times, bought a vintage sweater with snowflakes on it, drank several peppermint lattes, and I even got drunk and sat on Santa’s lapon a dare. I watched It’s A Wonderful Life (and wanted to kill myself after), and I even spiked the eggnog at a friend’s Christmas party. I’ve gotten it all out of my system, and now that I’m older, I’ve made the choice not to bring Christmas into my home unless it’s in the form of candy or a movie not starring Tim Allen. No tree, no paper decorations of toy soldiers, and no dressing my cat up like an elf. On December 25th, I’ll always do the Chinese food thing, and there is a good chance that I will wear my pajamas all day. But there’s also the chance that I’ll watch National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, and maybe put on that vintage Christmas Cosby sweater I picked up, but that’s it. That’s all the Christmas spirit you’re going to get out of this Jew.