Tonight and tomorrow Jews across the nation will perpetuate a stereotype by attending movies and eating Chinese food. The holidays represent an interesting time for Jews; we partake in some activities but are bystanders in most. For instance, seasonal parties attract everyone, but we breathe a sigh of relief when cars with trees strapped precariously to the roof drive past (I know in our house we would be scrambling on Valentine’s Day to recycle it).
Then there is the issue of how to respond to “What are your plans for Christmas”, or “Will you be spending Christmas with your family?” or “Are you done with your Christmas shopping?” In most cases, I just smile and give a scripted answer, but for those I know better I explain that I am Jewish and we don’t celebrate Christmas. You only have to drive down our street to realize that we are different; our house sits dark compared to the brightly lit spectacles that surround us (I think Santa is using the star atop the house across the street as a beacon for landing).
Unlike past years where I let the festivities come and go, this year I have and will be experiencing a more Christmas-like holiday. The requisite annual parties have taken place and been enjoyed. Interspersed between the gatherings I attended my first ever Christmas concert. When my friend asked me along to the annual event at CU, I responded that I would love to go as long as I was not expected to sing (I did not want to embarrass her or me with my lack of knowledge of the words or my incredibly horrible voice). The concert was a wonderful amalgamation of songs from different cultures, varying musical styles, unfamiliar renditions of traditional Christmas tunes, and an excellent showcase of the talent CU has to offer. The evening was capped off by a convivial dinner with her relatives and friends. Unfortunately, time slipped by too quickly, and we left as another round of carols began.
Jews can relate to Christmas more than any other holiday. It is not because of the congruence of Chanukah either. It is because of Christmas Eve (there is no Easter Eve, is there?). All Jewish holidays begin at sundown the night before the actual holiday so we are accustomed to the “night-before” concept. This year, as my Christmas education continues, I will attend a Christmas Eve open house and a Christmas day dinner. Fortunately, my friends are understanding and will serve turkey in addition to ham. And, I have heard rumors about a game of touch football, but I will have to pass. I claim injury, but truth be told, I would not play even if I was healthy.
This holiday season has been a special one, a time of exploration. It is never too late to become familiar with a religion, or for that matter a race or culture, that is not your own.