And a Happy Chanukah to all of you goyim, too!
Ever since Daigoro was born, Christmas has been a particularly stressful time of year for me. I can pretty much ignore religion altogether most of the time, having abandoned it over twenty years ago. The problem is that the religion I abandoned, Judaism, is not only a religion. It’s also a community, a culture and an ethnicity of sorts, and those things are much harder to leave behind than the religion itself. Even if I had wanted to, you don’t suddenly stop being a Jew just because you don’t have a mezuzah outside your door. I speak Hebrew with my daughter. I go to Israel every few years to visit the family, and the Middle East will always be the old neighbourhood for me, should I spend the next fifty years in America. My eye never fails to catch rumours of Antisemitism and impending pogroms in the daily news, and I have an unhealthy compulsion to stomp on fools who misquote the Old Testament at me. Somewhere in my basic programming, there is a Jew routine that just doesn’t happen to get activated very much in daily life.
But it’s still there, and in the months before Christmas it starts getting all sorts of action. This is the one time of year that most Americans remember that they are Christians, with all that the word implies. It is the only time of year, for example, that most people remember charity. It’s also the time when religious icons start popping up all over the place, from Nativity scenes on every town green to entire herds of electric reindeer cropping the grass on every lawn in the suburbs and ridiculous motorized blow-up Saint Nicholases going in and out of blow-up chimneys. In many ways it’s a sick, perverted commercialized Disneyfied travesty of a holiday, and one which many Christians are quick to deride as such, of course.
A funny thing, though – the overwhelming majority of them still celebrate it, even if they claim to hate it. They don’t just observe the day, they revel in it. There’s no doubt in my mind that Christmas is the single most important holiday of the year for at least 99% of all Americans, be they tiny tots waiting for Santa, devout believers celebrating the birth of Our Lord, nonchalant agnostic paterfamilias bringing their families together for the festivities, or non-Christian merchants who count on the Christmas shopping frenzy to feed their kids through the lean winter months.
As it happens, I celebrate Christmas, too. My wife is a devout Christian, and my mother’s family are all slightly less devout, but still practicing, Christians (long story there, don’t ask), so around Christmas and Easter I get temporarily assimilated. And I like it, although I still take great pleasure in pointing out the pagan origins of most of the traditions involved in both those holidays. I like the family vibe. I like the traditional Christmas feast. I like playing Santa to my daughter. I like how, for one day out of every 365, everyone in America genuinely feels something of the Christian spirit. Christianity isn’t a bad religion at heart, it just grew up in a bad environment, and when I see people going back to the roots and being nice to each other, stopping their endless bickering for one day, giving gifts, giving money to charities, and all that jazz, it warms my heart.
But (you knew that was coming, didn’t you?) It’s still a Christian holiday, no matter how you tart it up with nonreligious themes. You don’t have to remind me that the Yule log is a pagan custom, that Christmas was set for a date that would eradicate the observation of the winter solstice. Don’t protest that more children know about Santa Claus than Jesus Christ. Don’t tell me it’s a sham holiday that mostly benefits retailers and electric companies, and please please don’t bother explaining that really, Easter is the important religious holiday and Christmas is just for the kids. None of that matters. None if it makes Christmas not Christian. Say the name of the holiday with me: Christmas. Christ... mas. There. See the part about Christ, right before the Mas? It isn’t called Festivus. It isn’t Dayforgivingpresentsandbeingnicemas. It certainly isn’t Jewishmas.
And that’s what kills me. So many Christians try to sell Christmas as a holiday for everyone. I will scream if I hear of another public Christmas tree being designated as everyone’s “Holiday Tree”, and don’t even get me started on the “Holiday Lights” that they sell at K-Mart. What is a practicing Jew supposed to do with Holiday Lights, string them around his menorah? And the songs! The songs.... By all that is good in this world, why do I have to hear the songs everywhere I go for one solid month out of every year? Why, in the name of sweet zombie Jesus, do I have to hear here comes Santa Claus, here comes Rudolph, and all the rest of that crap coming from every electronic device attached to a power source? Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, stupid country versions of “Santa Claus is coming” and that god-awful Little Drummer Boy shit, with maybe two daily airings of that jokey Adam Sandler Chanukah song thrown in to appease the heathens. I will admit, that song was funny the first two or three times I heard it. But after a hundred listenings, it was tedious, and by now I’d like to shoot Mr. Sandler and all three Stooges. Find another token Jew song, please. Or better yet, get all that crap off the air and let me get back to the delicate harmony I usually enjoy as the invisible pagan atheist half-assed-Buddhist Jew amongst Gentiles. Thanks.
But enough of that. Merry Christmas to most of you, and Happy Chanukah to some, and good solstice to others, and “Enjoy the Winter” to everyone else except for the Southern Hemisphere bunch. Be sure to tune in next time, when DM and Daigoro go looking for a Menorah in their local “we’ve got everything” big box store! Hilarious hijinx guaranteed.
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