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Saturday, 20 December 2014

Does it sound like I’m boycotting Christmas? Getting Over Holiday Envy

The following two essays are reflections by two Jewish women

Top 10 Reasons Why It's Easier to be Jewish at Christmas

Getting Over Holiday Envy

 by: Judy Carter 

There was never an official diagnosis, but I knew my seasonal, winter depression was a case of serious HOLIDAY caused by being Jewish at Christmas.  Oh sure, we had Chanukah. It’s billed as “the festival of light” but it’s really Christmas-light. “Dreidel” isn’t even in MS spellcheck. You won’t find a latkeh with Judah Maccabee’s face on E-bay.

Growing up, my family tried to put on a festive face. We’d stick a tarnished menorah in the window, our way of saying “us too” in the neighborhood’s winter wonderland of sleighs, reindeers and elves, each house giving off more light than a shuttle launch. We had those blue and white streamers attached to banisters and we spun plastic Dreidels, but what I was lusting for was Santa, the first unavailable man in my life. I yearned to sit in his oversized lap and whisper what I wanted. Unlike my mother, he wouldn’t have scoffed, “You don’t need a training bra!” He would have, I knew, found me adorable and “ho ho ho’ed” at my jokes, making sure I got not only the training bra, but a cocker spaniel puppy as a bonus.

If I was caught moping, I’d be reminded, “We have our own holiday.” Uncle Norman never tired of telling us about the victory of the Jews over the Hellenistic Syrians in the battle of the Maccabees – hardly your warm-hearted, Hallmark moment. Christmas and Chanukah are apples and oranges. 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. Christmas has the longest shelf life of any holiday, which is why my holiday depression extended to spring, when the last of the Christmas decorations would finally wilt from the heat

You’d think eight days of gift giving might make up for something, but not when your family is “practical”. They didn’t want to “spoil” us. On the first day of Chanukah, I’d get one glove. On the second day, I’d get the other one. And we lived in LA, where nobody wore gloves. By day three we were out of brisket and the fun of trying to shove candles into slots filled with last year’s wax had worn off. I wanted to be part of the ritual of holiday shopping, but the only presents I needed were for were the newspaper delivery guy and my hairdresser, people whose last names I didn’t know. Everyone would be saying, “Merry Christmas” and I, who thought of myself as quick-witted, would be stumped for a response. This was no piece of honey cake.

Never mind how many scientific theories or vaccines our people have come up with, in December, we’re not a main event. Try looking for Chanukah wrapping paper in the Rite-Aid in North Dakota. Even in Manhattan, where Hispanics speak fluent Yiddish, a supermarket had put out matzo for Chanukah. And don’t think I was the only Christmas wannabe; Jewish superstar Barbra Streisand made a Christmas album. That’s right, our Yentl! You don’t get Taylor Swift singing “Chillin’ in the Gefillen.”
I’m not sure when things were recast for me, maybe when I heard “Put on your yalmuka. Here comes Chanukah”. As unlikely a guru as 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. Christmas Eve I’d gotten into a first-run movie without dialing Fandango. Their holidays get more press, but that’s all they get; we get theirs and ours. And if we want to take a day off, we can make up a holiday. “I can’t come in tomorrow because it’s the first day of “Cha…anything”. I started counting the perks.

Here are 10 REASONS why we Jewish people should be happy at Christmas:
1. We’ll never end up in an emergency room because we fell off a roof putting up reindeer.
2. 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.
3. 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.
4. We’re not pressured to be happy, which is why it’s not such a Jewish thing to commit suicide during Christmas.
5. Nobody will ever knit us a red wool sweater with reindeer on it.
6. We don’t have to climb a ladder and hang tinsel on a tree with most of it ending up clinging to our clothes.
7. We’re not spending most of January standing on long lines, without receipts yet, to return a fondue set.
8. We can send cards, such as a New Years or Passover card won’t get lost in a huge stack of Christmas cards.
9. Less cholesterol in Potato Latkes than ham.
10. 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.

The following is a post a friend posted on her blog. And I thought I'd like to share it with my readers.

By: Erris Langer Klapper 

Years ago a new neighbor asked me where we would be purchasing our tree

“We’re Jewish.” I said, assuming that no further explanation was necessary.

"So?" She pressed

“So we don’t celebrate Christmas,” I said.
“Why?” She insisted.
Why? Because we’re Jewish. But I didn’t say that. I was stumped and instead I stammered, “We celebrate Hanukkah.”
“But won’t you put up a Christmas tree?” She insisted.
“Will you be celebrating Passover this year?” I tried a different tack.
“No! We’re not Jewish.” She was taken aback.
“It’s the same thing,” I continued. “We celebrate Hanukkah instead.” And just like that I perpetuated the common misconception that I so desperately seek to avoid. Hanukkah is not instead of Christmas, should not be compared with Christmas and is not the Jewish answer to Christmas. Hanukkah is Hanukkah.
The following year the same neighbor took a different approach: “Are you boycotting Christmas again this year?” Boycotting?! There was nothing left to do but laugh and change the subject.
I am not offended by the concept of a “Christmas break,” nor am I comforted that it’s called “Winter Break.” I am fully aware that if Christmas didn’t fall on December 25, our winter break may very well have occurred in mid January, when it’s especially cold and dreary, and an urgent trip to the Caribbean is in order. I will also continue wishing a “Merry Christmas” and not just “happy holidays,” because I respect the tradition and joy of those who celebrate. And I get a huge kick out of receiving L’Shana Tova cards from my Christian friends. I don’t see what the fuss is about – as long as mutual respect continues to guide us.
Christmas is Christmas and Hanukkah is Hanukkah. The High Holidays are far holier than Hanukkah, but logistically speaking, they lack the strategic proximity to Christmas. Therefore, in the diaspora, Hanukkah enjoys an elevated status. The Festival of Lights has become the Festival of Gifts, and I am just as guilty for literally buying in to that shtick. I rationalize that I’m doing my part to stimulate the economy, but the truth is, I’m competing with Christmas and I need a miracle.
Let’s face it, Christmas is a tough contender. The music, the lights, the trees, the colors, Santa, the reindeer… Gelt and dreidels, and latkes on a blue and white platter just can’t compete. And they’re not meant to. But they occur closely together and the comparisons become inevitable, sending parents into a tailspin designed to prove to their kids that missing out on Christmas is no big deal. We have Hanukkah…
Last week I attended a “holiday party.” As I stood around the spectacular room, impeccably decked out in Christmas cheer with the band playing Christmas favorites in the background, I rhetorically wondered why the invite didn’t just call it what it is? A Christmas party. I was happy to participate, but there was nothing Hanukkah or Kwanzaa about it. My musing was interrupted by a question from an acquaintance: “Do you ever miss it?”
“Miss what?” I answered, distracted by a passing hors d’oeuvre tray covered in bacon wrapped scallops.
“Miss decorating your house, putting up lights, the tree… It’s all so pretty and festive. Don’t you want to do it?”
I conceded that while lights would complement the architecture of my house and landscaping, it’s not something we do. That seemed to quell this line of questioning, but refueled my exasperation: How can you miss participating in a tradition that was never yours?
I wanted to ask if she missed fasting this past Yom Kippur.
Maybe we need a miracle. Oh, wait. We had one! So let’s celebrate and embrace it. Even if it’s easier said than done.

Read more: Does it sound like I'm boycotting Christmas?! | Erris Langer Klapper | The Blogs | The Times of Israel
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