My family does not celebrate Christmas. Although my parents would have preferred for it to be just another day, it was always clear that December 25th was the day we did not celebrate Christmas. We were Jewish, and had our own holidays. Our own candles. Our own food.
Donna and I acknowledge Christmas two ways: we go to Alexis’s for waffles and Prosecco, and we tip the employees who work in our apartment building. We don’t exchange gifts.
Growing up, I knew of other Jewish families who were just like us, except that they celebrated Christmas as a secular American holiday. Like Thanksgiving. They decorated an artificial tree, ate a spiral sliced ham, and exchanged presents. My parents said it was “A shanda.” A scandal. Jews should act like Jews. Jews like us go to the movies and out for Chinese food on Christmas. Jews like us do their shopping after Christmas to take advantage of the sales.
My parents believed that all Jews, all over the world, were our kin. They divided the world into Jews and everyone else. I feel kinship with a subset of unobservant, over-educated, and under-employed queer New Yorkers. At Christmas, I feel a little at loose ends. I’m missing a party that I don’t want to attend.
My Dad told me that Santa Claus didn’t exist. That parents, aunts, uncles, and grand parents buy all the presents. I understood that my life wouldn’t be any better if we were Christians or if we celebrated Christmas. I’d have to wear a red and green plaid dress with a black velvet Peter Pan collar, tights, and black patent leather Mary Janes. I’d get the same dolls, Nancy Drew books, and a purse. Different wrapping paper, the same problem. Continue reading