Most of the people who have the patience to read this WILL disagree with me. That said, sometimes it feels like I’m the only modern American Orthodox Jewish person who HATES Christmas.
I hate that I start to hum Christmas songs from mid November. I hate seeing Christmas lights, trees, and nativity scenes in my neighborhood. I hate that every store (besides our “kosher” Jewel) plays Christmas carols as I shop, assuming we are “all feeling the Christmas spirit and have Christmas cheer,” and I hate that in the biggest department stores, everything is over glorified with red bows and tinsel.
I hate that some of my own children don’t share my sentiments, especially because we raised them to appreciate Jewish awareness and taught them the importance of Jewish pride. And that it’s okay to be different. And not to be jealous of Halloween because Purim is SO much more fun, and is about giving and not taking.
It makes me sad that our modern Jewish educators have done a remarkable job “fun-izing” Chanukah, yet even when our schools and shuls “compete” for our attention to mind our own holidays this time of year, that some of us still yearn for even a tiny bit of a holiday that is not our business. I know most Jews, especially kids, think of it as an “American holiday” and have no clue what they are even reveling in the thoughts of.
I know no one means any harm or even heresy towards our own beautiful religion. But it just doesn’t sit well with me. Never has. Never will. My parents (mostly my mother, I think) were adamant about not giving us Chanukah presents. Every year we got Chanukah gelt and it was explained to us why money, and not presents. And every year we do the same today with our own kids, and explain to them why.
I remember being in Israel during my gap year, and realizing that I didn’t even know it was Christmas! It was kind of an awesome awakening. For the first time, I felt like, wow! People here really don’t know! How amazing is that? And then there was the explosion of Chanukah in every store and on every mirpeset across Yerushalayim and experiencing the greatest sense of Jewish pride I could remember.
Most people think “it’s harmless.” I, on the other hand, (and maybe the only place in my life where I feel like I have an old soul) agree with my uncle a”h, a Holocaust survivor who abhorred the time that his frum kids and grandchildren stopped the car near a “Christmas Elmo” for a photo op. I can only imagine how it made him feel to stop and enjoy this even for a minute. I stand with my uncle a”h and all the other survivors who abhorred it.
I know I am a minority. But one thing my parents taught and continue to teach me, is to never succumb to majority opinion when you feel strongly about something.
That said, I’m glad that on Tuesday, the “season” will be over and we can stop focusing on what we don’t have and start focusing on Purim and Pesach and the holidays that are so steeped in Jewish tradition and song and symbol that get our kids really excited, and we can move past the question of will it be a white Christmas or not.
P.S. It snowed in Chicago today for the first time. I’m not happy for the Christmas celebrators or for myself. It’s freezing here. And I hate snow.