The spirit of Christmas: A Jew’s perspective

Christmas was largely a mystery to me, a nice Jewish girl, until J. came into my life 14 years ago. Now J. and I are equal opportunity celebrants, Christmas and Hanukkah both. We miss out on J.’s family Christmas because travel has become challenging for me, but are lucky enough to enjoy time with adopted family here in Calgary. We are included in a hotly anticipated Christmas Eve dinner with special friends, and celebrate Christmas Day in our own home, with an adapted dinner menu of challah, sweet potato soup, and cabbage rolls. Last year we may have thrown in a few latkes as well.

As a newbie, I liken Christmas to a trip to Disneyland. I’ve never been to Disneyland, so I’m just imagining. Or maybe it’s more like a visit to Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory. Christmas is something new and different and I spent my childhood, and much of my adulthood, wondering what I was missing.

I have the benefit of Christmas’ not having the same meaning to me that it does to those who’ve celebrated since childhood. I don’t remember the sick feeling after weeks of overconsumption, culminating in 24 hours of hyperoverconsumption. There was no drunk uncle spewing obscenities by the end of the evening, no cold fronts within the family, no fights over the cooking and the cleanup. Jewish families don’t experience any of these things at their festivities, of course. I just get to enjoy the parts of Christmas that are fun and joyful and special. Why turn that down?

I love Christmas decorations, inside and outside, and participation in others’ rituals–the delectable ham, the special family traditions, the stories of Christmases past. Jewish children don’t spend much time wondering whether Santa is real. Early on, I realized Santa couldn’t possibly be at every mall my parents took me to, but the eureka was not especially traumatic or life changing. I still haven’t figured out how Elijah made it to every Passover seder to drink from the wine cup we left out for him, however.

J. has shared some of her Christmas rituals with me over the years. I’ve come to enjoy having a fully adorned Christmas tree in our home. We’ve collected all manner of dog ornaments–crummy year for dog ornaments by the way; are dogs out and nobody told me?–and others we’ve picked up on trips far and wide. We even have a Star of David as a nod to my heritage, but we don’t put it on top. After all these years together, our tree is full of our memories.

large and small chocolate Easter eggs in multicoloured foil

And if we can just get through winter, Easter will be just around the corner. It took less coaxing for me to participate fully in the Holiday of the Chocolate Egg. That is the significance of Easter, isn’t it? Easter is, without question, much more enjoyable than Passover, a.k.a., the 8 Days of Constipation.

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday. It’s not too late to start thinking of your New Year’s resolutions. I’ll share mine next post, hopefully before I blow them.

 

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