“Oy to the World”

Ah yes, it’s that “time of year” again!

I’ve already seen blogs talking about presents, decorations, peppermint bark, santa, etc.

But for me, this “time of year” is bittersweet.

I am actually not a fan of candy canes or gingerbread, just call me the yiddish scrooge

You see, I’m a true Jew. As a kid , I secretly wanted to be a little of any other major religion. I’d ask,

“Dad, is there ANYONE in our family that might be Christian?”

(no pause) “No”

“Muslim?”

“No”

“Hindu?”

“I would hope, but no!”

In my dad's hometown in Belgium. Poor guy, he too was a Jewish kid where mostly everyone is strictly Catholic

So yea, I’m a pure Jew. During Christmas, every time I utter the words “Merry Christmas” I feel like a phony. The truth? I grew up hating Christmas: the songs, the TV specials, the reindeer and sleighs, not to mention huge stockings bursting with toys delivered by a scary, fat man with a beard. True to my sarcastic and intellectual, form, I rationalized. I scoffed at the commercialization, I noted how Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer has nothing to do with Jesus, and, I piously observed, if religion is about lying to your kids about reward and punishment, then I was proud to have no part of it. Go me.

You cannot compare Christmas and Chanukah.  The story of Jesus born in a manger to a virgin is a guaranteed ratings win over a forgotten tribe, even with the long-lasting oil miracle thrown in as a B-story.  If there’s a miracle, it’s that anyone converts to Judaism when it means giving up chocolate Easter bunnies and eating bitter herbs!  Christian holidays have been “Disneyfied,” escalating in proportion and visibility.  

My cooking students (all under 10 mind you!)  dont comprehend me not celebrating christmas. They stare at you in disbelief. Everyone keeps Christmas, they plead. It is the topic of every television program, the display in every store window. What do you mean.  Does that make us Jews the Grinch? maybe Scrooge?

“And even if you’re not going to celebrate Christmas”, they say, “you can celebrate Chanukkah!” (which in their minds is just Jewish Christmas). “After all, isn’t Chanukkah about peace on Earth, good will towards men, and of course PRESENTS??? And for EIGHT DAYS!!!”

Nope, here comes the buzz kill

Chanukkah is not about any of these things. Chanukkah is about a struggle for Jews to maintain their distinctiveness in a culture that tried to force us to do things the way everybody else did. Sound familiar? In ancient Greece and in America today, it is the same struggle. I feel we lose a little bit in that struggle every time a Jew celebrates Chanukkah as Jewish Christmas, every time we use dreidels as ornaments on a Chanukkah bush.

Dont get me wrong if you are a Jew and have you bush or a white and blue wreath. Hell, Jews wrote some of the most popular Christmas songs and Ms. Yentil herself, Barbara Streisand, came out with a Christmas album.

But now as an adult, I’m content.

I’m not sure when things were recast for me, but I’d like to think that Adam Sandler got me out of my funk, getting me to see there is, in fact, a bright side to celebrating the holiday of lights.   I had time off and didn’t have to go to church. I am content to walk down my street and enjoy the trees in other people’s windows – but I do not need one in my own. So lets count my “Jew” perks of the season shall we:

  • Nobody will ever knit me a red wool sweater with reindeer on it.
  • I’m not spending most of January standing on long lines, without receipts yet, to return a fondue set
  • There’s none of that lying to our kids about Santa Claus or pretending the toys are made by elves, not by children in China.
  • We’re not traveling during black-out periods to see family.  Because of the quirky timing of Chanukah, we can actually use frequent flyer miles
  • We don’t have to climb a ladder and hang tinsel on a tree with most of it ending up clinging to our clothes
  • I dont feel guilty about “the tree”. I don’t even have to say it, it’s so obvious. A living tree has been killed. For what? For less than thirty days of enjoyment. For putting gifts under. Then decorate it. Then throw it away. I am obviously not pro-killing trees for decoration. Tree farms? Still a bad idea. Then there are the fake trees. Made of plastic and entirely non-biodegradable. I get it, its pretty, and tradition, but still…
  • And if this were the only perk, it would be enough.  We get jelly doughnuts for dessert, not a Christmas fruitcake with dried maraschino cherries on top.

How do you feel about “the holidays”? Do you go all out? Do you hate me now? Remember, sarcasm in my first language.

Dad Update: My dad is still in the hospital and he is no longer hooked to an IVs! He showered by himself today! However, his memory is still not great and we don’t know when he will be released. In the meantime, I’m visiting him and took time off work to help him out. I will keep you guys updated. And thanks SO much for your support! Means a lot!

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36 thoughts on ““Oy to the World”

  1. I am so glad that your dad is doing much better. I have always loved christmas so much. I love the lights, and carols, and presents. But being a grown up feels weird. Stephen’s family gves me more presents than my parents ever got me. And it just feels wrong, you know? Christmas was all about the excitement for me growing up, not necessarily the spending lots of money on people part.
    I was always kinds of jealous of jews, because I knew nothing about their holidays and wanted to know everything possible.

  2. So glad your dad is doing better and I am running late but could write a bible/torah LOL on this matter. Scott’s jewish, im catholic but neither of us are very practicing. We are raising skylar as an…ummm…good person? Teaching her about both. But i confess, b/c I am the mom and in charge of orchestrating holidays and events and such, b/c of my family of origin and my upbringing, it’s easier for me to do easter bunnies and santa claus b/c i KNOW that stuff…playing driedel games and singing songs that are jewish fall by the wayside b/c i dont know it either…that’s scott’s role 🙂

  3. i’m a jew too, so i pretty much understand where you’re coming from.
    as a kid though, i pretty much prayed every christmas eve that somehow santa would show pity on me and show up and leave me presents. i remember dramatically runnign down the stairs of my house one christmas morning with my eyes closed hoping that a christmas tree would magically be in my living room with a box (with a golden retriever puppy in it, duh) underneath, wrapped in red paper, just for me.
    never happened. it was definitely a way to learn to deal with dissapointment, though.
    i get pretty pissed off when all the jewish people in NyC celebrate christmas just “because”. it seems kinda off and anti-jewish and just weird and unnerving to me. SO MANY of the kids i know who are jewish have one parent who is christian so they basically just forget that they are jewish and only celebrate big, commercialized christian holidays. eh…
    anyway, Eden, you’ve been in my thoughts this week with everything going on with your dad. I’m glad you took time off work, nothing wrong with a little extra break time in between visits, i’d say. Hang in there!

  4. I’m happy that I knew about your dad before I read this post. In a very silly, immature way. 😉

    Yo, will you and your dad still be traveling during Christmas?

    I’m a hard-core Christian. I’ve never really “celebrated” christmas. Guess what I’m getting for Christmas this year? A big fat donut: Nothing.

    I like donuts, though. Hm.

    • I never understood why you need to give gifts on holidays. When you exchange gifts with someone, you feel bad if the gift you gave them is cheaper than the gift they gave you; you also feel bad if it’s the reverse. your screwed all around.

      • I just saw you on the Millionaire Matchmaker and I felt very bad for you, because the two losers that picked you judged you negatively for telling them about the two most important experiences in your life (your food disorder and your Mom’s death). I don’t think there is anything wrong with you sharing that information with someone on the first date, and if they respond negatively, then they are very shallow people, and they don’t deserve you. Contrary to what you wrote on your blog, I don’t believe that you were attempting to sabotage your dates. I believe you simply wanted someone who would accept you for who you are, and it is those experiences which helped mold you into the person that you are today. Don’t change a thing! Ron

  5. It is great that your father is doing better! I am kind of indifferent to Christmas, until they start getting on my nerves. Note: that comes from a person who had the amazing idea of working on a project at starbucks today and if she hears even the mention of “white christmas” for at least a week, she is seriously turning violent…

  6. I love holidays, but its more because of time spent with family and friends. Its also a time to thank God for his son. This also makes me appreciate the small things. gifts stress me out, haha. I would rather not get them, but I love to give them. Just wish I had a butt load of money to do that. See thats where the stress comes in, ah! okay, enough ranting.
    I am THRILLED to hear about your dad!!
    LC

  7. I’m glad to hear that your dad is in a more stable condition 🙂

    … I definitely don’t hate you. However, I go a little nuts during the holidays. I love the decorations (even the fake non bio-degradable tree) and I love the cheesy movies that really have nothing to do with the real birth of Jesus and that are only made for commercial purposes.

    One of my absolute favourite Christmas movies is Eight Crazy Nights though… from which I learned most of what I know about the Jewish tradition 😉 I seriously laugh my ass off every year when I watch it.

  8. To be honest, I normally don’t “get” Christmas either. I loved it as a kid because it meant time off from school, presents, and usually getting to go visit my grandparents. Thanksgiving became my favorite holiday over the years because of its lack of “pressure” and “build-up.”

    However, I have to say I am very much in the spirit this year, if only because I haven’t seen my family since I moved to Texas in June, and this will be the first time I get to do that. So this year, Christmas = family = amazing.

    The past two years I have been voluntarily out of the country, once with a Jewish family, and once in the middle of Mexico, where little frou frou occurred….so I could kind of take it or leave it then.

    Don’t hate me for my upcoming adventures in peppermint bark.

  9. I like the holidays but not to a point where I get stressed out about it. I love the atmosphere, there’s just something about it. But that said, I’ll be staying out of midtown and I’m not overly worried about buying gifts. My husband and I will be in Asia for the actual day of Christmas so obviously we aren’t too concerned!

  10. You are a brave girl! I would think someone with no sense of humor would get a little mad! But I can totaly understand your points. Christmas is a big commercialized baby that makes some companies A LOT of money! But I enjoy it for what it is as just a nice holiday break to spend with family and give eachother gifts because we love them! (Plus the whole, you know, Jesus’ birth. Got to celebrate that!)

    And Jesus was Jewish so more power to you! 🙂

  11. Love this post, I feel ya gurl! :p But I’m not even feeling any Chanukah spirit in Belgium, maybe I should be in Israel for that? Since here it’s not the MAIN holiday/celebration…Chag Sameach! Hope everything keeps going uphill for ur dad! 🙂
    x
    P.S.: As the song by the Jewish kid on Southpark goes: “I’m a lonly Jew on Christmas”.

  12. I’m also Jewish and I don’t feel the slightest bit left out during the holiday season…although I admit that I did feel that way a little bit as a kid. It was to a lesser extent than some people, maybe, since I grew up in a mostly Jewish area, but still. It felt strange to hear the Christmas music and see the traditions, but never really be involved. Especially since we aren’t “good Jews” and don’t really do much for the Jewish holidays, so we didn’t do Jewish Christmas OR Hanukkah. At this stage in my life though, I’m more than happy to skip the holidays. I guess I’m a scrooge too, but I’m pretty apathetic about the whole thing.

  13. Half the time, I don’t even celebrate Christmas. I’m pretty sure I’ve worked on Christmas day for the last 8 years or so. Hospitalized cats need love on the holidays too! I’m dating a Jewish girl now and am learning more about Hanukkah and all the customs, although she gets Christmas too because her dad is Catholic. It’s neat to learn something I never knew before.

  14. I’m happy to hear your dad is doing better!

    My family is not religious, so we tend to use holidays as an excuse to get together and eat well, as we’re usually all scattered around the world. We’ve pretty much stopped doing gifts altogether, other than doing under 10$ gifts last year, and this year I might make my parents a photo calendar. I don’t like the material side of Christmas (I’m the biggest scrooge in my family) but I do love the music, smells, baking, get togethers and good meals!

    This year I’m doing xmas with J’s family so I’m trying to do some homemade goodies…but other than that I’m really looking forward to drinking lots of wine, going for walks in the snow and getting 7 days solid with my love.

  15. LOL very good points. I was raised in a Catholic family, and although I’m not religious anymore I do enjoy a lot of the xmas traditions (music, family gatherings, etc). BUT I also really hate how commercialized and overplayed the holiday has become. Target had their decorations out in *September*, and analysts judge the state of the economy solely by how many overpriced items we stuff under our murdered trees for one another. Commodification of the holiday spirit is….complete!

  16. Hooray about your dad!!! 🙂

    I’ve actually never really been all that gung-ho for Christmas…Religion never played a big role in my family–we’re Lutheran, and while I’ve been baptized, that’s as far as it went for me or my younger sister…And we spent 12 years in Catholic school, she’s now Buddhist, and I’m…Well, I don’t really know what I’d consider myself. My husband’s family is hard-core Lutheran, and my mother-in-law goes apesh!t for Christmas, which in a way, tends to make me want to run away screaming. I hate anything being crammed down my throat, and a lot of times, it seems like people try to force warm fuzzies from Thanksgiving until after New Year’s. Nine times out of ten, I’m too broke to afford to get presents for everyone who gets them for me, I almost always have to work at some point during Christmas (although I work in a bank now, so I don’t have to worry about that any more), and the holidays make me sad. I live really far away from my parents & sisters, and I lost both my mom’s parents during the holidays (my grandpa actually passed away Christmas Day 2 years ago). That being said, I’m trying not to be a Scrooge this year, and I kind of want to make the whole decorating & opening presents thing fun for my little boy.

    • My mother was very sick on christmas day, it was they day she was sedated and she died two days later. Maybe this day is a little cursed? I find that any “extreme” makes you want to rebel against whatever religion it is. I’m glad my parents were totally lax and being Jewish. We were self admitted Jews, but my mother packed my ham sandwiches to school (and I went to a JEWISH day school!).

  17. I’m so glad that your father is improving! Hopefully more and more improvement is to come in the very near future… We’re all definitely rooting for him and for you.

  18. its the hannukah miracle that your dad is doing better!!!! seriously though I am so happy for you and your family! and happy hannukah!! where I grew up in a suburb of boston, it was the minority if you WERE NOT jewish, so I grew up where most of my friends were jewish etc. It wasnt until college where I realized that we are truly the minority! I had a friend who thought that the christmas tree was the universal symbol for winter time (aka the snowflake) it was crazy!

    anyways, HAPPY HANNUKAH!!!

  19. what a great first day of channy present to you that you’re papa is doing so much better!

    i’m a noel girl at heart haha and for real but i have lots of channy friends and matzas are of epic amazingness to me hahaha

  20. I just got back and had no idea anything happened to your dad. I’ll have to go back and read what happened, but I’m so glad that he’s better!!

    This year our family decided to ixnay presents in lieu of giving to charity. Much bettah.

    Hugs to you!!

    • the best gift I can get is that feeling in my heart know I did good by doing something for charity. Im not wealthy, so I usually try to donate my time. Thats an awesome gift I’ll never “re-gift”!

  21. I love everything about Christmas, and I don’t care about getting presents, but I really love giving them. My favourite thing about Christmas though, is the warm feelings I get around the holidays, the smiles from strangers in line-ups and warm greetings. The joy is what I love, and Christmas has always been a very joyful time for me and my family.

    It’s okay that you don’t watch Glee, you still rock 🙂

  22. Eden I don’t hate you at all! Actually, I love you a bit more for sharing your perspective and just keeping it real.

    I used to get annoyed by the holidays. The dichotomy between the commercialism and the religion would just plain irk me. Now I view the whole shebang as just a time to spend time with family and engage in traditions, be it watching silly holiday movies or baking cookies. People and fun, that’s what it’s about for me now. Everything else I just take with a grain of salt.

  23. I’m glad your dad is doing better also.

    Christians don’t hate so I don’t hate you 😀 I love your sarcasm.

    Trees are overrated. I haven’t put one up in 5 years until this year. I’ll regret it when I have to take it down.

  24. Wonderful post! My family does not keep Christmas either. Kindergarden and Elementary were HELL for me! You forgot to mention the $ you save from not buying ridiculous presents! I personally, love the music, the lights, and the ‘festive’ spirit everyone exudes! I think it needs to be called ‘present day’ because it rarely has anything to do with Jesus anymore!
    So glad your dad is doing a bit better!! Seriously Eden, I cannot fathom what you are going through! You are a very strong girl!Barbara

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