Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Christmas In My House

It's Christmas morning here - which really doesn't mean terribly much, but I can't really say it's just another day even though, being Jewish, we don't celebrate it.

It's always an unusual time of year for those of us who don't celebrate Christmas. Even as a little kid I knew that it wasn't our holiday - and never experienced any jealousy ... we had our own holidays and I always embraced our Jewish culture. I believe my own children grew up like that as well.

But there still is a feeling of being on the outside looking in, and it is mostly felt on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day when the TV is taken over with Christmas music and Christmas specials. Ironically, I happen to truly love Christmas music - and even stranger, the more religious of the music is the most beautiful. And as for the Christmas specials - I have to admit that my wife and myself were quite excited to see Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol back on the air for the first time since the 1980's!

The feeling of being on the outside looking in is strongest in the years that we are at home for the holidays. Often - and for the past few years - we spend the holiday in Walt Disney World in Florida. Christmas is just as prevalent there - in fact even more so, but ... well, we are in Disney World where we are not an outsider at all!

If you like seeing the Christmas displays all lit up, how can you beat the Osborne Spectacle of Dancing Lights in Disney's Hollywood Studios - especially when you remember that these were at one time a private collection of the Osborne Family of Arkansas.

I certainly don't feel like an outsider here ... there is even a small nod to Chanukah which is part of the display.

Perhaps the most religious event happens in EPCOT, The Candlelight Processional. And while it is a celebrity narrator reading the story of Christmas, we love hearing the full orchestra and choir performing Christmas music.

I will admit however, that while I totally enjoy this performance and whenever we are here for the holidays this is a must attend performance, the usual feeling of being an outsider is quite present here.

However, we are home this year - the first year both my wife and I are retired ... we no longer have to be in Disney World during school vacations ... the busiest times of the year. (We will be watching the parade from The Magic Kingdom in a little while though.)

There is not much for Jewish families (and other families who do not celebrate Christmas) to do today, so the tradition of going to the movies has developed. (And yes, many Chinese restaurants are open today as well giving rise to the other tradition.) This year there are quite a few good movies to see. (Our choice, having seen the others, is Les Misérables.)

If you walk through my neighborhood, my house is rather easy to spot as it is one of the few that isn't decorated. Chanukah is over and by tomorrow, Christmas will be as well. New Year's Eve is just a week away and then the Christmas trees start showing up at the curb for the Sanitation Department to pick up ... the lights will come down and we will no longer be outsiders - at least until Easter.

When I wish my online friends a Merry Christmas and they respond in kind, rather than correcting them I accept the greeting as is and in the spirit in which it was intended.

So before today passes, let me wish EVERYONE who celebrates Christmas a Merry Christmas and everyone else Seasons Greetings. New Year's wishes to come under separate cover.


  1. I'm not really religious myself. So when I wish people a Merry Christmas - I'm wishing them happiness, excitement, good food, some time off work to relax (or good penalty shift money for those who work.) For most people what we call Christmas is a time when for the most part, the year is over. It has a different feel to it between Christmas and New Year. And then the working year starts up again. I really love it when people take the Merry Christmas wish the way it was intended. To you and yours in this season we wish you well. And I'm more than happy to receive their good wishes back when it's their celebrations. When I was studying in UK we used to have the Irish Catholic mothers lighting candles for us, the Irish Protestant mothers praying for us, and my Muslim Foster Child used to say some as well. I loved it - you can't have too many people on your side!

    1. Ali - it's hard to understand why that cannot be true for me. You can see wishing someone a Merry Christmas as not having anything to do with the religious aspect because even if you consider yourself not religious, Christianity is part of you background and is in you DNA so to speak.

      But for us, we cannot possibly avoid the fact that it is NOT part of who we are are as there is NO Christianity in our background. Even the name "Christ Mas(s)" screams a situation foreign to us. As much as I can understand you saying that you mean it in a completely secular and inclusive manner, it can never really be that for us.

      I do accept the greeting in the manner in which it is intended, but it can not be totally devoid of religion for us,

  2. This is a great past Mark. I've often wondered how it must feel for you and those who don't celebrate Christmas.

  3. I too am Jewish and love the Christmas music and lights, but unlike you, I don't feel like an outsider on Christmas. I get my fill of decorating when we build our sukkah and when the kids were young, they certainly weren't hurting with eight nights of Chanukah. My classroom turns into a holiday wonderland each year as I decorate it with gifts from past students. Unlike a lot of the Jews from the south, I would never put a Christmas tree in my home or set out the beautiful holiday statues that the kids have given me. Instead of taking them home like the other teachers, I put them in my classroom for my mostly Christian students to enjoy.

    I also saw Les Miserable on Christmas day and have eaten Chinese for Christmas in the past. We have gotten into the habit of working our city's Christmas lights display along with all the other Jews. Who else is able to work this great tradition during the holidays? Besides, I don't envy the stress that my friends feel in preparing for their holiday. If you really want a great Christmas day off, head south to Cancuun. The year we were there, we met a rabbi and his congregation.

    Finally, I don't get bent out of shape over people wishing me a Merry Christmas. A greeting of any kind is meant in good spirits. We attend a Christmas party given by friends every year, and I think of it like a birthday party. Even though it's not my birthday, I can still wish someone else a happy one.

    Have a happy New Year.