What Being Jewish On Christmas Is Really Like, From Tree Envy To Chinese Food Overload
Although I have never been particularly religious (or, if we are being honest, even remotely religious), there are a few times of year when being Jewish becomes an important aspect of my life. Passover, for one, when even though I eat bread (like I said, #BadJew), I nonetheless pick up a few boxes of matzo to enjoy; early summer, when, each year, it feels like every person I know is gallivanting through Israel on Birthright; and, of course, all December long, when the holiday season arrives. I do Hanukkah with my family, but considering how casually we celebrate it, that's not what triggers my religious faith (or lack thereof). Really, it's being a Jew on Christmas that does it, for reasons both totally rational and totally inane.
But what exactly is being Jewish on Christmas like? It's not something that can really be summed up in a sentence or two, because to be Jewish around Christmastime means that you experience a huge range of emotions, from envy to pity to being in total awe of yourself for the amount of Chinese food you just ate. So, in stages, here is what it is really like to be Jewish on Christmas.
You Get Really Into The Holiday Spirit
Like, really into it, probably more than a lot of your Christmas-celebrating friends. So what if you don't celebrate the actual holiday? Christmas is about music, and chocolate, and Elf, aka three of the best things ever. What's not to love?
But You Get A Bit Peeved About Being Told "Merry Christmas"
Hey, cashiers/store employees/everyone else: a general "Happy holidays!" is totally fine, thanks.
And You Have To Teach People Christmas Isn't A Secular Holiday
By explaining slowly and patiently that 1) Jews don't celebrate Christmas, 2) because it's a Christian holiday, 3) which means we don't have trees, 4) which isn't that weird, 5) because it's not our holiday, 6) because it's not secular, 7) how many times do I have to explain this?!
But You Love Christmas Music, A Lot
Part of the whole "holiday spirit" thing, many of my fellow Jews and I love Christmas music, and will listen to it all through December. Why? Because we weren't force-fed it as kids, and now can listen to "Silent Night" without getting sick of it.
You Wonder About The Lack Of Hanukkah Movies Out There
Normally, religion-themed movies aren't at the top of my must-see list, but come December, you can guarantee that I'm scrolling through my movie queue going, "hey, where's all the Hanukkah stuff?" There are just so few Hanukkah-centric movies out there, despite tons and tons of Christmas ones. I know Jews are a small population, but come on, Hollywood — we need more than just Eight Crazy Nights and that episode of Rugrats.
But You Do See A Lot Of Movies
Come Christmas Day, you can practically guarantee that the movie theaters will be taken over by Jewish people looking to watch the latest flicks. While everyone else is at home with their families, we're at the movies with ours — and personally, that's always sounded better to me.
And You Eat A Ton Of Chinese Food
Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas is a cliche, but it's totally true. On Christmas night, restaurant lines are out the door, take-out times are hours long, and not a single egg roll goes untouched. It may be crazy, but it's a tradition for us, OK?
You Don't Understand The Stress Of Holiday Shopping
Unless you have a giant family, chances are that if you're Jewish, holiday shopping is pretty low-key. Get a few Hanukkah presents for your parents, siblings, and significant others, do Secret Santa with your friends (hey, it's not religious), grab a gift for your boss, and that's it. The whole insane show that is people frantically buying dozens of presents for every person they've ever met? Doesn't compute.
And You Don't Get Other Traditions, Either
Watching Love, Actually and devouring cookies, I can get. But giving people hams? Watching a fireplace on TV for four hours? Putting elves in strange positions all around your house? I'm not saying these sound like bad traditions (Busy Phillips' Elf on a Shelf looks so fun) — they just don't make a lot of sense to someone who hasn't been doing them for years.
You Feel Sad You Never Believed In Santa Claus
I don't have any specific memory of learning Santa wasn't real, because it was never even a question. I grew up knowing Santa was just a thing my non-Jewish friends believed in, and never got to experience either the joy that (I've heard) comes with believing and the sadness that comes with learning the truth. It's kinda a bummer, to be honest.
You're Totally Jealous Of People Who Have Christmas Trees
This is probably the number one envy-inducing part of the holiday for Jews. Getting a Christmas tree sounds like the best thing ever, and trust me, many of us are crazy-jealous that we've never gotten to have one in our homes (no one really does a "Hanukkah bush"). To this day, people still gasp when I tell them I've never gotten to decorate a tree, and my Jewish friends who're dating non-Jews rave about how much fun it is to finally get to take part in the event. Ugh, not fair.
You're With Your Family
Christmas for those who celebrate and those who don't may differ in plenty of big ways, but one thing that typically stays constant? Being with your loved ones. No matter what you celebrate, the holiday season is still synonymous with time with your family — you just might be spending that time marathoning movies and eating dumplings instead of singing carols and opening presents.
So whether you're a fellow Jew looking for moral support or a Christmas-celebrator trying to understand what goes through all our minds this month, I hope this helps. Happy holidays (see? look how inclusive that is!) to all!
Images: Rachel Simon/Bustle; Giphy