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“And while I was at the Christmas Market this weekend, I found some really cute ornaments and platters! I couldn’t resist!”

“Wait. You bought Christmas ornaments?”

“Yeah. Why not?”

“But you’re Jewish.”

Curses! I have been found out! I know my small nose and fine blonde hair and newly minted Danish-Scottish last name would throw them off the path only momentarily!

Hi. My name is cobycaroline. I am a Jew, and I love Christmas.

I know I’m supposed to be pigeonholed into doing things other than celebrating Christmas: playing dreidel, eating matzah, eating Chinese food, making people feel guilty. I’m supposed to do all these things that are so distinctly different than sitting around a big (fake) tree, enjoying time with my friends and family, and opening presents.

That just isn’t for me.

I will admit that I was raised a little off-kilter. I was raised in a Jewish home. My dad was born and raised a Conservative Jew but attended an all-boys Catholic school. My mother was born and raised as a good Southern Catholic but converted to Judaism in the early 1980s. However, my extended family is Christian, and I was raised with the typical Christian holidays: Easter and Christmas.

We celebrated these holidays not as religiously significant. Rather, we celebrated them as an opportunity for family and friends to come together in love, laughter and joy. We would sit around the table, tell stories and joke around. On Easter, my younger brother and I would hunt for eggs in my godfather’s yard. Permitting the rules of Passover kashrut, we would gleefully bite the ears off of our chocolate bunnies.

For Christmas, I would go over to my godparents’ house and help them decorate the tree. I became a master at stringing garland. My tiny hands were deftly able to maneuver in and about the tree branches and hang each ornament with care. My godfather would lift me up and I would place the angel or star atop the tree.

When I was much younger, I attended a Jewish private school. After the winter vacation, I would tell my classmates what Santa left me or what I got for Christmas.

“But you’re Jewish,” they would scorn.

“Yeah. So?”

“Jews don’t believe in Santa, stupid.”

“Well, what’s wrong with Santa? He brings candy and toys!”

At this point, my classmates would roll their eyes and mock, “Then you’re not really Jewish.”

And they would walk away.

It’s really frustrating to get slammed both ways: I’m either a Jew and therefore not supposed to enjoy Christmas or I’m not a real Jew for enjoying the holiday.

The message, though, is clear: As a Jew, the Christmas season is off-limits and, under no circumstances, am I supposed to enjoy the holiday.

But, oh, how I do!

I love the scent of holly and fir and the rum in any and every drink. I love the jingle of sleigh bells. I love the cookie and ornament exchanges. I love the tacky Christmas sweater parties. Even my Pandora station is set to Christmas music right now, and we haven’t even gotten to Thanksgiving week!

(Un)Fortunately, my husband loves Christmas as much, if not more, than I do. As soon as Halloween was over, he was dragging me all over town to buy all the Christmas essentials. In the weeks since, I have watched my husband light up with joy as he purchased ornaments and garland and icicle lights. I have playfully mocked his look of concentration as he measured the banisters and cursed that he didn’t buy enough holly. I have cocked my eyebrow and put my hands on my hips as I told him no, we cannot put up a Christmas tree until after Thanksgiving.

In these moments of joy and togetherness, I don’t care that I celebrate a holiday I’m not supposed to. I’d like to think that, at the end of the day, if there is something on the other side, that something is going to be pleased that I shared my life and love with those who brought me joy. Not that I sat on the sidelines and pouted that all of the good restaurants were closed. Not that others told me how wrong I was for adorning my house in red and green rather than blue and white.

After all, Christmas comes but once a year.




This entry is forIt's a Trap!, the Week 3 Topic over at therealljidol.

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Comments

( 44 comments — Leave a comment )
worldofcharlie
Nov. 21st, 2010 12:01 am (UTC)
First off..Christ wasn't born on December 25th...(don't think the morning start is out at that time of the year anyway)

Xmas Trees - pagan, exchanging gifts - pagan...

Reason why it's on December 25th? When Rome was being converted to Christianity (I forget the name of the Emperor) many pagan holidays were combined with Christian ones.

Easter Bunny - Pagan fertility ritual thing...

I dunno...I would prefer celebrating Hanukkah - I mean it's 8 presents right??.. :)

Likes your approach to the topic...
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:49 pm (UTC)
Interestingly, everything you've said here, my husband and I have candidly discussed. In efforts to proselytize, different missionary groups would take a Pagan-like equivalent and merge it with something Christianity-based to make the transition smoother, shall we say.

Chanukah is pretty great; all of the food is purposefully fried in oil. But, if you don't keep kosher, you can get the Christmas ham.

Many thanks for reading and your comments.
angelic_mystic
Nov. 23rd, 2010 08:40 pm (UTC)
He was actually born in the late Spring, somewhere around May or June. I believe that's when the olives are in bloom.
lawchicky
Nov. 21st, 2010 01:03 am (UTC)
Good for you- celebrating what feels right in your heart. Around here, there are many Jewish people who celebrate Christmas!
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:46 pm (UTC)
Thanks!

The temple I belong to now is a pretty big mix of interfaith so a lot of the couples we know are in the same boat. It's really great to be a part of what we consider to be normal rather than one of the few.
basric
Nov. 21st, 2010 01:06 am (UTC)
I loved your entry. Well written and happy. It made me smile.
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:46 pm (UTC)
Many thanks!

On the LJI front, I figured I had written two heavy-handed entries so I needed to do something... not too-too this week.
faerie_spark
Nov. 21st, 2010 01:37 am (UTC)
I loved reading this.

As a Jewish child, I felt guilty about enjoying Christmas activities at school. AS I got older, I was able to admit to myself that I absoluteley loved Christmas music.

Oh, and chocolate Easter eggs are delicious.

cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
I could eat my weight in Cadbury creme eggs. Just after Passover and they're all on sale.

Thank you for reading.
brilligspoons
Nov. 21st, 2010 02:02 am (UTC)
Ahahaha, you're not alone in this: two of my Jewish friends get really into Christmas every year, too! Whereas I tend to agree more with worldofcharlie up there. ;)
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:50 pm (UTC)
I went to a Catholic school for undergrad, and I would get a whole bunch of "Waaaaaaaaaaaaait, ah who cares!" from my friends.

But I would get them back at Lent. :P
vaguelyclear
Nov. 21st, 2010 02:59 am (UTC)
We celebrated these holidays not as religiously significant. Rather, we celebrated them as an opportunity for family and friends to come together in love, laughter and joy.

This is the only reason I celebrate Christmas. It's the only time of year where my entire immediate family is able to be together in the same place at the same time. I'd actually do away with gift-giving, if I could, and just have it as a family day filled with food and games, but I have nieces and a nephew who love that aspect of Christmas, so I can't.

I'm glad you don't let the fact that you're Jewish deter you from celebrating Christmas. I think you're absolutely right about this: if there is something on the other side, that something is going to be pleased that I shared my life and love with those who brought me joy.

Nice entry!
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:45 pm (UTC)
Many thanks!
sileri
Nov. 21st, 2010 03:07 am (UTC)
I can relate to this as I'm a half-a-half. My Jewish father helped his neighbors decorate their trees since there wasn't one at his house. He's the one who pushes hardest for a tree now. We usually celebrate Chrismukkah - Hanukkah as a religious holiday, Christmas as the gift exchanging day.
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC)
That's an interesting take. I hadn't thought of it that way.
alphaloria
Nov. 21st, 2010 04:12 am (UTC)
Christmas trees, Santa, blah blah - it's all secular anymore anyway. Hang some jewish star ornaments on that tree and enjoy it. :)
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:44 pm (UTC)
I tried to convince my husband to let me decorate the tree in blue, white and silver, but he wouldn't go for it.

Now, NEXT YEAR, maaaaaaaaaaaaaybe...
alphaloria
Nov. 22nd, 2010 11:23 pm (UTC)
What? Why not? That would be awesome!
tigrkittn
Nov. 21st, 2010 04:54 am (UTC)
I love the chinese food reference! My family celebrated Chanukah until I was 12, and then due to changing family circumstances switched to a secular christmas celebration. Christmas is WAY better!
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
Haha, thanks! Whenever I think of Chinese food on Christmas Eve/Christmas, I think of that poor duck in "A Christmas Story."
awriterswindow
Nov. 21st, 2010 02:26 pm (UTC)
I don't know why people care about that, since Jesus was Jewish anyhow! Go for it! :) And honestly, a lot of people don't celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, but as you said...family, joy, etc (I know I'm being Captain Obvious here). It's funny because Jon Stewart did something a few years ago about how Christmas blows the doors off of Hanukkah and how much he loves it.

/rant

Anyway, I'm just the opposite. My family is Christian but I celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas because I love the Jewish tradition and secretly would like to be a Jew.
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:43 pm (UTC)
One of the reasons I loved Chanukah as a kid was so I could gorge myself on donuts and hashbrowns (basically).

I should also find this Jon Stewart clip...
solstice_singer
Nov. 21st, 2010 04:32 pm (UTC)
I really enjoyed this entry. I applaud you for finding joy in the holiday.
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:41 pm (UTC)
Many thanks. :)
mousedemon
Nov. 21st, 2010 05:50 pm (UTC)
Tuts.

What a shame that people think they can tell you what you should and shouldn't celebrate. And Santa isn't Christian.

I am Pagan (for want of a better description) and I celebrate Christmas. Not for the birth of the Christ (since he wasn't born then anyway) but because it is a celebration of families (blood related or not)and love. That goes beyond any religious belief system.
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:41 pm (UTC)
Agreed - mainly why I think that whatever is on the other side (assuming there is something) would rather us to have spent our time enveloped in love, joy and laughter rather than playing the "shoulda coulda woulda" game.

Thank you for reading.
myrna_bird
Nov. 21st, 2010 06:12 pm (UTC)
You don't need to be of any particular faith or belief to enjoy the music, lights, and celebrate the holiday season. We can use all the 'good-will and peace on earth' we can get these days. Very good story.
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Agreed. Many thanks. :)
majesticarky
Nov. 21st, 2010 09:56 pm (UTC)
Haha I'm a Jew and I really dislike Christmas... but I don't celebrate Hanukkah either.
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Why do you really dislike Christmas?
majesticarky
Nov. 23rd, 2010 12:16 am (UTC)
I guess I don't like the whole consumerism part of it. I'm not religious, so the whole Jesus part of it kind of bothers me, even though these days it's less and less about Jesus and more about consumerism. It's just all very stressful having to think of things to buy for everyone. I don't buy anything for anyone and I tell them not to buy me things either. Actually a couple seasons ago I wrote an entry about this in LJ idol hehe.The only thing I really like about it are Christmas carols.
ellakite
Nov. 21st, 2010 10:19 pm (UTC)
I hears ya.
My siblings and I were raised Roman Catholic, but one of my sister converted to Judaism, and her kid is being raised Jewish. Additionally, one of my brothers married a Jewish woman, and his kids are being raised Jewish, too. So at this point, the younger generation of my family is about Half-Jewish, Half-Catholic. We get around the issue by exchanging gifts for "The Holidays", without specifying whether we're referring to Xmas or Hanukkah.

PS: I, personally, am an Atheist now... but I still exchange gifts for "The Holidays". I love the expression of wonder on the faces of my nieces and nephews when they get *THE* gift of the season that every kid wants, but all the stores sold out of. It's the closest I'll ever get to a "spiritual experience" ever again...
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:40 pm (UTC)
Re: I hears ya.
Not to sound snarky, but sometimes I believe the true spirit of the season is consumerism.

... As I sip from my Starbucks holiday latte...
ellakite
Nov. 23rd, 2010 03:34 am (UTC)
Oh, you're allowed to be snarky about "The Spirit of the Season"...
There was a time, not so long ago, when I used to quote Ebeneezer Scrooge while I did my holiday shopping... and I didn't just limit myself to "Bah, Humbug!" My favorite Scrooge quote was:

"If I could work my will ... every idiot who goes about with 'Merry Christmas' on his lips should be boiled with his own pudding, and buried with a stake of holly through his heart."

And, yeah, I was technically a part of "the common herd", but I did it at my pace, on my schedule, and did my damnedest to be there on Xmas day to see the reactions of my nieces and nephews.

OTOH, now that my nieces and nephews are all old enough to ask for "the green stuff" and be trusted to spend it wisely... well, their reactions aren't quite as extreme, but it's nice that I don't have to fight "the common herd" anymore. It's a fair trade.
scriblesnbraile
Nov. 22nd, 2010 02:56 am (UTC)
Absolutely love this entry! Very well done.
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:38 pm (UTC)
Many thanks on all counts!
soprano1790
Nov. 22nd, 2010 03:09 am (UTC)
I love Christmas too! Great entry! I loved it! You should celebrate the halliday the way you want. Lol! BTW, love the title very much! Love it!

And I don't agree that Christmas is all secular now. Most of the carols still are Christian Christmas themed. Just had to say.
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:38 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading.

My husband looks at me so curiously at his Christmas Eve worship. We decided a long time ago that, where comfortable, we would attend each other's worship services. And I just love Christmas music, and I will sing along to "Silent Night" with the best of 'em.

Much like my ridiculous love for gospel music...
soprano1790
Nov. 23rd, 2010 12:39 am (UTC)
That's awesome! You guys have it all worked out.
millysdaughter
Nov. 22nd, 2010 05:45 am (UTC)
Might as well -- I am a Christian, but I go all-out to celebrate Halloween anyway. We can decide to be inclusive and enjoy all the holidays!
cobycaroline
Nov. 22nd, 2010 10:37 pm (UTC)
Hear, hear!

Thanks for reading. :)
furzicle
Nov. 23rd, 2010 01:49 am (UTC)
I feel I could write quite a corollary to this one. I'm the raised-Protestant but immersed in Judaism person. I love Judaism, though I can't buy into the Kashrut business. So for Channukah I cook pork roast and latkes. Take the best from each, I say!
L'Chaim!
gaea_rising
Nov. 23rd, 2010 04:14 am (UTC)
We celebrated these holidays not as religiously significant. Rather, we celebrated them as an opportunity for family and friends to come together in love, laughter and joy.

Exactly! We do this in our house, too. Easter (Ostara/Eoster), Halloween (Samhain) and Christmas (Winter Solstice/Yule) have each become so commercial and secular that they really bear out having their own separate celebrations. We're pagan and although most of the symbols are spiritually significant to us (having been borrowed as noted by others above), we celebrate the spiritual holiday separately. Nicely done!
angelic_mystic
Nov. 23rd, 2010 08:39 pm (UTC)
Very awesome! Everyone should get to celebrate and believe as they want. Just because you like Christmas doesn't mean you're not a real Jew. That's just very disrespectful.
( 44 comments — Leave a comment )