Monday, December 04, 2006

Jews Love: Christmas

One of my roommates isn't Jewish. She is so non-Jewish, in fact, that she is a fairly religious Christian. Well, the roommate, I, and the other roommate have taken this as an excuse to have a Christmas tree in our house. This has resulted in a number of hilarious conversations, such as "so, motzei shabbat* we'll go get a tree?" However, it has also started a firestorm of criticism. Our upstairs neighbor, and the roommate's gentleman caller are both strongly against us having a Christmas Tree in our apartment. My question is: what is the issue? It is really the non-Jewish roommate's tree, and we make her keep a kosher kitchen, it really seems like the least we can do. Also, Jews have taken on all sorts of Christian and pagan rituals over the years. So why is it ok to give presents on Chanukkah (which I am pretty sure the Macabees did NOT do), but not to have a tree or lights?

Kay of Neosnia gives a short background on the symbology (really, is that a real word?) of trees. I guess if a tree is a symbol of Christ on the Cross, I could see how Jewish people wouldn't want it in their home. It seems to be the sticking point for a lot of people, just like I know Jews who eat meat and milk together, unkosher meat, etc, but they WILL NOT eat pork.

I've put together a couple types of posts on Christmas and trees: those who love it, those who want to mix it up, and those who have less-positive feelings.

Love Christmas:
Spiderrichman of Advanced Ramblings, who grew up as the child of two Jewish parents (his father converted) describes his observance of Christian holidays as a child, and the fact that Christmas, specifically the tree has become something of a rallying point for his family. The Town Criers of a blog whose name I cannot reprint here also enjoys Christmas, but in a more theoretical way, she calls it her "if" Christmas, and has created a beautiful fantasy of what Christmas would be like. In some interfaith families, like that of Louise Crawford (Only the Blog Knows Brooklyn) Christmas is seen as a "special treat" that now she can observe, if she so chooses. Louise talks about the fact that while she enjoys spending Christmas with her husband's family in California, that she also enjoys being able to opt-out of that experience.

Christmas as holiday season:
Leah of Accidentally Jewish went to visit the Christmas tree in SecondLife, and then went on to visit the virtual synagogue, which by the way, looks a lot cooler than any of the synaogues I have been in recently. Wen of Two Girls Guide to Getting Hitched has come up with a number of different holiday season combinations to make it as inclusive as possible. For the record, while her Aunt might have come up with "Hannumas," Chrismukkah predates her aunt, and even the episode of the OC. Apparently it dates back to German-Jews in the 1880s. Reform Judaism, Chrismukkah, is there anything that they didn't come up with?

Although, for the record, I tend to side with the "War on Christmas" right wing, that Christmas is a holiday, lets not try to turn it into the "Holiday Season." I really enjoy Christmas, but I enjoy it as an observer. An observer who looooves candy canes (Duane Reade has some with a heksher**). I don't think that Chanukkah should be jazzed-up to compete with Christmas. It is a totally seperate holiday. My family doesn't even really do Chanukkah presents, my mom has been trying to phase them out for years.

Jews Who Love Christmas Less:
South Park's Kyle was not the only "Lonely Jew at Christmas." Justin of Guardedly Optimistic details how Christmas resurrects feelings of being left out as a kid. He says that "over the years my Christmas envy has waned – now I just hate the oppressiveness of the decoration and ambiance." Ken Levine in his eponymous blog entitled a post "Oh No! Christmas songs again!" and discusses the fact that many Christmas songs were actually written by Jews. He also rates some of his favorites (I agree that Nat King Cole's "Christmas Song" is awesome), and is overall not as down on Christmas Songs as the post's title might imply.

Also, I am aware that my/our Christmas tree is lame, and small.

*Motzei Shabbat means after the Sabbath ends, or after sundown on Saturday night, when three stars are visible in the sky
**Heksher is a sign on a product that declares it kosher, or acceptable for consumption by traditionally observant Jews


The Town Criers said...

Thanks for including my Christmas thoughts in the list (by the way, I LOVE Jewbiquitous so it was extra special). Though I fall between two categories--I love the "idea" of Christmas (what I think Christmas is like since I've never celebrated it. The first time I was even in a house with a Christmas tree I was 24!), but it makes my life so hard with the kids right now. They love the lights; they love candy canes. They don't get why we can't celebrate it too.

I keep telling them, those families never get to celebrate Shabbat. No challah. No grape juice. No candles. Ever. Their eyes get huge like they can't imagine a world where people would willing give up celebrating Shabbat. But two seconds later, they forget that fact and go back to asking why we can't have lights on our house.


I was going to post more on Christmas when I find a chunk of time to write. Probably early tomorrow morning.

Anonymous said...

I've seen multiple people write about how special their children view Shabbat. I'm not sure if its just being older, but I never remember viewing Shabbat as something special that couldn't be given up. It was just something we did.

cathrina said...

nice is for everyone.. and one must not forget the tru meaning..come over to my blog and share the common ideas

AnnieGetYour said...

Anon- I think that it varies from family to family. I had a number of friends who were only allowed to eat candy, and have soda on Shabbat. It was also a time for fun activities. On the other hand, I had some friends for whom Shabbat observance was just rote.

Cathrina- at the risk of sounding like a hyprocrite (I do have a tree), I don't think that Christmas is for everyone. Christmas is for Christians. The "true meaning" of the holiday is a celebration of the birth of a messiah in whom I do not believe. While I enjoy the trappings of the holiday, I in no way ascribe to the beliefs that come with it. Just as I can enjoy a July 14th parade in France without being French, I can eat (kosher) candy canes without being Christian.