December 25, 2010

What Do Jews Do On Christmas?


Swimming on Christmas

My family never celebrated Christmas. Jews don’t celebrate it. Except, a Jewish girl I know only online from reading her blog. She grew up celebrating Santa Day. I read her post and thought that is was both bizarre and cool at the same time. My Jewish family never did anything like that. So, some Jews celebrate Santa Day.

In general, though, most Jews don’t. So what do we do? I know it’s hard to imagine, but we often have non-Jewish friends who invite us over. Many years my family would go over to my Auntie Ann and Auntie Penny’s house and eat a fancy dinner, a la Thanksgiving. The weirdest thing about my Auntie Ann and Auntie Penny are that they’re Jewish, or that’s what I’ve been told. But they celebrate Christmas. I didn’t understand it when I was a kid but it meant I got presents so why not play along. Honestly, as a 40-something I still don’t understand it. But, if it works for them.

When we moved away from our family, we ended up meeting many of our Jewish friends for dinner at a local Chinese restaurant. The place was always packed. With Jews! The owners were not Christian and did not celebrate Christmas so one year they decided to open and see if they had anyone come in. And the tradition for my family to meet other Jewish friends for Chinese food on Christmas was born.

But when I went to Jewish camp, off to college, and even today when Christmas discussions come up among my Jewish friends it seems like we all went out for Chinese on Christmas. I wonder if there was some kind of a telephone game passed along. Or some secret society that sprung up. And as the 80s came around I started to see kosher Chinese restaurants pop up so that meant that my more observant Jewish friends were joining in.

Really, though, eating dinner out meant an entire day of nothing to do. My mom used to tell me about going over to friends and playing games or meeting friends at the park. That was the 50s and 60s though. Long before any type of electronic games were invented. Long before any movie theaters considered opening. Before there was really much else.

So when my friend got an Atari, it was a full-on Atari fest! WooHoo! Who could resist hours of Pong? Fortunately more games came out so we were able to master Air-Sea Battle and the Olympics game. And, of course, Pac-Man when that came out. I still remember my mom driving me over to my friend’s house and spending the whole day hanging out playing games.

By time my teenage years were upon me, movie theaters started opening on Christmas Day. My mom would drop me off and I’d meet friends and we’d stay all day watching whatever was showing. It didn’t matter what it was, it was just a time to hang out with friends. And it wasn’t a Jewish thing by this point. It was a teenager thing.

Now that I’m older, and there are a lot more options, I think many Jewish kids are missing out on the tradition of eating Chinese food and chillin’ out. Even now, as an adult, I kinda miss those days when there was truly nothing to do. When there were but 3 channels on TV, no stores were open, there was no internet, no cell phone, nothing.

I love being connected to people, but on days like Christmas when most Americans are huddled around a tree opening gifts and sharing family moments I, too, enjoyed my family moments of my youth. Instead, it’s so much harder to create because all the things we do on other days can be done on December 25th too. And while I’m glad I don’t have to eat Chinese food, I miss the quiet.

For the past decade or so, we go over to my mother in law’s house. I get the stress that my Christmas-celebrating friends feel with the gift giving and the family gatherings. Makes me miss the boredom of childhood.

To those of you who celebrate, Merry Christmas. To those of you who don’t have a lovely day!



rhonda December 25, 2010 at 5:02 pm

I think a day with much of nothing sounds good. : )
And a meal that someone else makes sounds even better. One of the best Christmas’ we have had was spent with you and yours. I’ll never forget it and neither will the kids. Sometimes I think they compare every year to it. And ya know what? I do too. Of course there were parts of the week I’d like to forget, but none of it was time spent with you.
Love you lots!

Kate @ Songs Kate Sang December 26, 2010 at 8:53 pm

I’m so glad you share your world with me 🙂 I had always wondered, but never wanted to ask. Kee hee.

Have a wonderful day!

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