While visions of “The Polar Express” danced in their heads, my children had their first Christmas tree-decorating experience this Sunday – just a few hours after Hebrew school.
We were at another family’s Christmas party; so ensconced in Jewish life am I these days that I hadn’t realized until we got to their apartment — Christmas songs playing on the stereo and a fragrant evergreen awaiting the children’s trimming — that this was, in fact, a Christmas party.
Jews don’t celebrate Christmas, but it feels like everyone else does. And this “December Dilemma” forces us, as Jews living in a Christian country, to confront some difficult questions.
First of all, what do Jews think of Christianity? This isn’t an academic question. When Christmas is front and center in streets, stores and television screens, religious differences become part of the family conversation. I can remember my own children at a young age asking me, in their own words, “why did the Jews reject Christianity?”
Over the past week, my life has been so overtaken by the Festival of Lights that I’ve been looking forward to Christmas, just so I can kick back and do nothing!
Our schedule was packed this week: three events at our temple, family over for dinner on Saturday and dinner with friends on Monday night. Plus, "Chanukah Lady" visits to Sophie’s pre-K and Ellie’s second grade to teach about the holiday and pass out dreidels and gelt. Oh, and did I mention that it was a regular week of work and school for everyone, and that I had to take the kids to two different doctor’s appointments?
My 3-year-old nephew, his voice raspy from a recent cold, has been directing a long-winded narrative my way. I catch only a few words, but they startle me: Santa will be sliding down chimneys, and then there will be presents.
“Oh really?” I say, my eyebrows rising, inwardly vowing to speak with my sister.
Jews and Christians have very different rituals that mark the onset of winter, but they share the pleasures and stresses of the holiday season. In Laurence Holzman and Felicia Needleman’s revue, “That Time of the Year,” which opens this weekend at the White Plains Performing Arts Center, two dozen new songs illuminate various aspects of the winter festivals.
Do people still send Christmas and Chanukah cards?
The last time I was organized enough to sit down with a stack of envelopes, stamps and list of addresses, was in 1998, when I was sending out wedding invitations. I’m sure that were my lapsed Catholic hubby and I to marry now, we’d probably notify the guests via Evite.
Perhaps at no time more than Halloween am I struck by the huge chasm between Orthodox/traditional Conservative Jews and the rest of us.
Among most of my Jewish family and friends, there has never been even a question of whether or not to join other Americans in dressing up in costume, carving a jack-o-lantern and trick-or-treating. Halloween is a fun holiday and of course we partake.