I’d just finished rolling up my sleeve after getting my H1N1 shot when the nurse said, “Merry Christmas.” Never mind that my last name is Schwartz or that I’ve been going to the same family doctor since I was born or that it was the last day of Hannukah. Kyle Broflofksi was right. It is hard to be a Jew on Christmas. It’s even more difficult because while our Festival of Lights lasts eight nights, it seems Christmas lasts more like eight weeks.
This used to bother me a lot more, though. While I was growing up, Christmas was like the world’s biggest party, and somehow my invitation always got lost in the mail. In elementary school my mom would send notes to music teachers demanding that I not be forced to join in singing the Christmas songs. I’d sit in the corner instead, sometimes twirling a dreidel to pass the time. It was as awesome as it sounds.
When Santa Claus- and snow-based musicmuch of it written, ironically, by Jews like Irving Berlinwould blare through speakers at restaurants, I’d take my food to go and eat in the car.
I was always quick to correct grocery store cashiers for their innocuous Christmas wishes. “I celebrate Hannukah,” I would tell them tersely, as if they should have guessed that already, trying to make overworked, underpaid people feel guilty during the happiest time of the year.
But as I grew older, I realized that Christmas is more cultural than theological. Sure, some go to church and participate in its religious aspects, but not most of the people wishing me “Merry Christmas.” Instead they buy things they don’t need, feign amusement and then trade them. They do good deeds: donating toys to the less fortunate and sending presents to soldiers. There’s no reason I should sit in the corner and not partake in that.
So now I tolerate Christmas, and accept the many merries without correction. I know they aren’t trying to convert me, they are just trying to spread the love around in December (and sometimes November and October). Plus it’s easier to avoid the shocked look on the faces of people wearing snowmen sweaters, candy cane earrings or Rudolph ties. I guess Christmas has to last so long so those people can get more than a day’s use out of their novelty wear.
And I like bright lights, feasts (yes, ham) and the time off from work and school. And you can make a minyan at whatever high budget yet obvious movie is showing Christmas Day and eat some Chinese food. There’s nothing like some good Kung Pao to get in the holiday spirit.
I know that I can’t rival your trees, your presents or your food, or your utter domination of all things commercial. So instead, I’ve joined you in hoping you have a wonderful holiday that you don’t celebrate. Happy Hannukah to you and yours. No, really. Have a good holiday, whatever it is or isn’t.