When people say the “holiday season” they mean Christmas. Thanksgiving kicks off Christmas season and New Year’s Day marks its end. If you don’t celebrate Christmas it can be a strange time of year.
Though I came from a Christian background Christmas was never about anything religious. Occasionally I went to midnight mass with my stepmother but Christmas was about presents and food (shoutout to divinity, the world’s best candy and to my mom who makes it better than anyone). I get that it comes from a religious place but my experience of it has always been secular. So I never gave any thought to religion during the holiday season while enjoying the lights and food and presents and music during December.
And then I converted to Judaism.
After my conversion I thought about Christmas a lot. Not because I missed it, but because I realized just how much you can’t escape it. You can’t move an inch in middle America during the months of November and December without being hit with some sort of Christmas decoration or greeting. Truly there is no way to opt out of Christmas, but that didn’t stop me from trying.
A couple years ago a bank teller wished me merry Christmas and I said “It’s not my holiday but if it’s yours I hope you have a great one.” I thought it was a pretty good response but it made him mad. It didn’t matter to him that I didn’t celebrate Christmas. It didn’t matter that I’d actually hoped for him to have a nice holiday. He just wanted me to participate in the ritual of wishing merry Christmas and was offended when I wouldn’t play. I was offended by his being offended.
Last year I took a different approach. As Christmas neared I wore necklaces with larger and larger stars of David. By the time December 25 rolled around we were almost to Flavor-Flav clock levels of Magen David-ness. It was awesome in its silliness. Well meaning people who noticed it would wish me a happy Hanukkah. Hanukkah overlapped Thanksgiving last year though so I had to tell them that Hanukkah ended weeks ago. Their faces dropped like I was the Grinch who stole all the holiday spirit. But they were committed to holiday greetings so eventually most said “Well, happy new year then.” It was their third choice in holiday greetings to be sure, but I think it made them feel better to say it.
The Love Below
Perhaps it’s because I’m so completely settled and comfortable in my Jewishness that I don’t think of Christmas season as my adversary anymore. And I don’t feel like a “bad Jew” for enjoying the secular aspects of the season.
Perhaps it’s because I have a nephew now. Christmas is his holiday and I want him to have a wonderful one.
Or perhaps I’ve watched Love Actually so many times I have completely absorbed the movie’s vision of a 100% secular and 100% awesome Christmas season.
I’m not sure what to credit with my change in attitude. What I am sure about is that this is the first year in many years that I’m enjoying Christmas music. I noticed that all the Christmas music I used to love has absolutely nothing to do with anybody being born in a manger. I also noticed that a whole lot of the Christmas music I used to love was written by Jews. There’s something deliciously fun about listening to Christmas songs written by Jews that have absolutely nothing to do with the religious catalyst of Christmas.
So here is my “Hanukkah and Secular Christmas” Rdio playlist. There are far more Christmas songs than Hanukkah songs on the list which makes sense when you consider that Hanukkah is actually a very minor holiday. American Jews make a big deal out of the festival of lights so we’ll be more integrated into American society. I mean what’s this time of year in America without a holiday? And Hanukkah food is pretty freaking awesome.
Of course this doesn’t mean that I’m not still mad that everything except Heine Brothers is closed on Christmas Day. I got errands to run yo.