Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Jew in Christmas City

Yesterday I was at our local ice skating rink with my kids. It's in Central Park, and over the sound system there were Christmas songs playing. One after the other. Christmas this, Christmas that. While the Zamboni was going around the ice, I was clapping my hands to a particularly jazzy Christmas tune, wondering if the handsome Harry Connick was singing, when all of the sudden my daughter stamped her foot and shouted, "Doesn't ANYBODY celebrate Hannukah!?!"

My answer? "Not that many people, honey."

As a Jewish mom, I'm bad at explaining why we don't celebrate Christmas. Actually, since Helen told me we had to get some matzah when I told her it was the first night of Hannukah, as a Jewish mom I'm clearly bad at explaining all kinds of things. But that's not the point. The point is it's hard to manage all the Christmas stuff when you don't celebrate Christmas. I was halfway seduced by the pronouncement of the stepdad in Kathleen Schine's The Three Wiessmanns of Westport which runs along the lines of: "This is a holiday celebrating the birth of a man in whose name our people have been persecuted for centuries. Why let them have all the fun?"

But I know this isn't the answer for me. And Christmas doesn't look like all that much fun, anyway. This isn't just sour grapes talking. This is anxiety about wrapping paper, garbage and climate change fueled by plastic toys talking. (By the way, I'm sure there's a connection between climate change and plastic toys.)

For all this reasons and more, I was very glad to read Marjorie Ingall's column about the ambivalent position we Jewish mamas stake at Christmas. Turns out the mushy middle is a reasonable place to be, and when our kids grow up, God willing, they can be ambivalent, too.


Carolyn said...

It was so nice to read this, and Marjorie's post as well. I was brought up in the tradition of Christmas but a kind of cultural tradition as opposed to religious. My mother is Austrian and as we are living not so far away in Switzerland - I can clearly see where a lot of our traditions came from. It is a serious big deal here, and there really is no counterbalance or perspective given to anything else. It is Christmas Christmas Christmas. And at the kindergarten too - honestly so weird - to NOT be religious, and trying to explain this guy Jesus, making it sound about as ridiculous as Santa. And the kids are sugar high and just drooling for presents and and and..th etime has probably come to start thinking about religion again and at least exposing them to the idea of it, without everything sounding like a fairy tale. it's so hard when i dont' even know where i stand! You may be Jewish in Christmas City but at least you have that ;)

Robin Aronson said...

Thanks, Carolyn. The question of religion is so complicated....i'm not sure how to talk about any of it.. in any case, i hope it the rest of Christmas there is still fun.... i can only imagine how christmas-y it is!