christmas and me

That sounds like the title to a made-for-TV movie, doesn’t it?

In thinking about my relationship with Christmas there is the B.C. era and the A.C. era.  Before Conversion and After Conversion. (To Judaism, that is, in case you were wondering.)

I grew up with Christmas and like many who grew up in religious homes, had the usual mix of religious/secular feelings about Christmas.  My parents played the whole Santa Claus game with my sisters and me, and we also went to Christmas Eve services at church and had nativity scenes around the house.  I don’t remember pondering much about Christmas, it just was.  When you are part of the majority culture, you have the privilege of being able to take many things about your life for granted.

Then, I converted.

My first Christmas as a Jew was spent in Jerusalem.  It was the first year I was married to Mr. X, and we were spending the year there as part of his graduate school requirements.  I barely noticed Christmas that year, thanks to the lack of red and green decorations and Christmas carols playing everywhere you spend money.  Christmas was actually on Shabbat (Sabbath) that year (as it will be this year), and the day was taken up doing the usual Shabbat things.

The next year, I was back in the U.S., and came face to face with the American Christmas Industrial Machine once again.  That was the year of the “War on Christmas,” or rather, the “War Against the War on Christmas.”  I found the whole thing highly ridiculous.  As a person who had very recently switched from the “Christmas” side to the “non-Christmas” side, I was hyper-aware of how much Christmas (not “the holidays,” but full-fledged Christmas) permeated the very air one breathes in the US in December.  War on Christmas?  Where exactly?  That year the first thing I thought when I woke up on December 25th was, “It’s Christmas,” but something in me reared up every time someone told me “Merry Christmas.”  I wanted to shout, “It’s not my holiday!”

That year, and for the next couple of years, I had a somewhat adversarial relationship with Christmas.  I was very, very aware that it was no longer “mine,” and as I was married to someone who was very threatened by the idea that I might miss Christmas or want to celebrate it with my family, I made sure to show how much I was annoyed by the whole thing.

Last year was the first year I was both Jewish and not under Mr. X’s thumb.  Now I feel like I have the best of both worlds.  Christmas is impossible to avoid in this country, but I no longer feel like I have to.  I can enjoy the bits and pieces that I want to enjoy (the lights, gifts with my family, receiving the occasional holiday card from a faraway friend), but I get to opt out of the annoying parts, like sending Christmas cards, or feeling obligated to decorate.  I kind of like that there are more get-togethers this time of year and  I really like helping my clients have a better Christmas.  On the other hand, I like getting out of cheesy gift exchanges at work and  I really like not feeling like I should buy presents for all my friends.

Of course, there’s no escaping the music, that’s a burden we all must bear. 🙂

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3 responses to “christmas and me

  1. I always find it fascinating to hear about how other cultures perceive our North American Christmas celebrations (even Christians from other countries celebrate differently). Sometimes when you step away from a situation, you see it with new eyes when you come back to it again. Anyway, glad you have found a peaceful co-existence with Christmas this year!

  2. Well, it is the time for cheer!

    Loved your post. Have nothing profound as a response but you really summarised how the holiday has changed for you …

    And yes, getting away from exchanging cheesy presents? That is the best thing. Give it, when you mean it.

  3. As someone who didn’t grow up with Christmas at all and instead grew up being talked to about how materialistic the holiday is etc I am totally aware of that side of it. I don’t love the whole “well so and so bought me a gift so now I have to get them one thing.” Yet now that I celebrate Christmas there are parts of it I truly love. I love decorating, I love the lights, the music and the time with family etc. I even love the cheesy secret santa gift exchange things. Outside of that though I could do without most of the gift exchange. I think the gifts are great for kids and all but rather than spending my money buying gifts for everyone else that they likely won’t like that well I’d rather buy what I know I want and or need. I also admit that I really don’t get into the whole religious side of the holiday.

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