The Christmas Transition for Jews
We were so earnest. It was a sunny Black Friday, and my husband and I were excited to take our children to the zoo. No malls for us, no sir! Out in the world, faces to the sun, we’d open Turtle Back Zoo and be the first ones through the door!
We were still buzzing from our Thanksgiving. We had the ultimate invitation, from our walking-distance neighbor who happened to be my chef instructor at the culinary school I attended. The food was fabulous, and so were the guests down to the 5-, 6- and 7-year- olds who treated my 1- and 2-year-old children just right.
We met new people, played soccer with the kids in the backyard, drank wine and whiskey and watched football.
It was a glorious American day.
Something I’ve always loved about Thanksgiving is that there are no gifts, we just spend time together and eat. The religion is patriotism. There is no consumerism but there is consumption. Everyone is included; doors are open. And you know that at a million other tables across the country, the exact same thing is happening. We are together, separately.
At the zoo, it was clear that changes had been made. They were preparing for their annual “Holiday Light Spectacular”, so I was looking forward to snowflakes and animals aglow. I was not ready for what was there. Santa was out in front in a big sleigh with reindeer. Red ribbons and Christmas trees were everywhere. And that’s all good, except for one thing.
We’re Jewish. Ever since I married a Jewish man, and especially now as I’m raising Jewish children — the period from Black Friday to Christmas puts a little pit in my stomach. My children didn’t know who Santa was, couldn’t recognize a Christmas tree, and were perplexed by all of it.
And I didn’t know what to say. I was ready for a snowflakes and snowmen, not Santa.
After feeling very included, we suddenly felt very left out. We don’t have a Christmas tree; we don’t have Santa stories. When I grew up, I was able to “visit” these things, as my mother came from a Protestant family (she converted to Judaism before she married my dad), and my family was always invited for Christmas. Though we didn’t go to church, we had stockings, opened presents, and understood this as a time when we were celebrating with my cousins.
Although we had a different holiday at our house, we could enjoy their holiday with them at their house. Just like you can celebrate someone’s birthday even though it isn’t your birthday. You can still be included in the fun.
If I were to put my transition coach hat on, here are some things I’d say to myself:
- Sounds like the Christmas transition is tough for you since you don’t celebrate Christmas.
- Sounds like you enjoyed being invited to someone’s house for Christmas as a kid.
- Have you ever invited someone not Jewish over for a Chanukah?
Yes. Yes. And no. And the thought of inviting someone not Jewish over here to spin dreidels and eat latkes seems like…well, why would they want to do that? Would that be fun or would they think it’s weird? I’ve never done it and I’m not sure why.
I suppose the only way to find out is to do it. And here’s where coaching comes in again: if the idea feels good right away, and it’s simple enough to execute, than it’s probably worth trying, yes?
Instead of focusing on that thing I don’t have, I can share that thing I do have. Everyone wins.
I’ll report back in a couple weeks to see how the Chanukah proposition impacts the Christmas transition. Until then, let me know what you think of the idea.