A Jewish Christmas

No Christmas tree and no decorations!

Santa is not visiting, and the night is not silent… So no Christmas carols, although there was the year I discovered Elvis singing Christmas songs.  The rhythm sounded so different than Andy Williams.

Many years ago –  many Christmases ago, we fled the tinsel and the wreaths and the red and the green and would go to visit the snow. Just drive to anywhere there was some snow; and we’d see lots of cars with passengers who looked Indian, Chinese and Middle Eastern.  So, we knew we weren’t alone- not the only ones not celebrating Christmas, and our kids were not the only ones who felt different.

Nowadays with the kids gone, it’s mostly Chinese food.  (Thank you China for sending your people here!)  When you step into a Chinese restaurant at Christmas you may as well start singing Hava Nagila and dancing the hora. I feel sorry for the lone gentile or the Indian couple, they must feel like they’re in a foreign country.

And of course one can’t ignore the plethora of new movies starting Christmas day, which is just a bit after the new, good movies appear in movie theatres.  Read:  Academy Awards season and off we go. So naturally, while Christmas celebrants a digging into their holiday ham, the movie theatres are filled with Jews and other non-celebrating heathens – and maybe someone who’s lonely and has no one to celebrate with?

When you live in a big metropolis such as Los Angeles, there’s always a lot of people like you, even when you’re not a part of the majority. I remember one Christmas-day, many moons ago when I went to the quintessential Jewish Deli, on the quintessential Jewish street – Canter’s Delicatessen, on Fairfax.  When I stepped out of the car there was a line almost out to the sidewalk, and I heard the multitude of all of us speaking loudly and together; there was the hustle and bustle of busy mouthy waitresses, and the aroma of chicken soup!

A Christmas Day indeed.

There were the number of times I was invited to a friend’s house to partake in the Christmas celebration, and – truth be told, it was lovely and joyous but it felt like I was a foreign dignitary visiting the locals.  I was attending a cultural experience that had nothing to do with me.

So Christmas does not belong to me, even though it’s beautiful and festive, and families get together to open gifts (which would be an anxiety producing experience for me anyway, as I would obsess on getting not too much and not too little but just right. Yes, Goldilocks I have the same neurosis.)

I believe that Christ never celebrated Christmas, just as George Washington never celebrated President’s day-   and I doubt he (Jesus, not George!) was born on the date we think he was born … but that’s neither here nor there. Holidays exist for us to give us meaning, and to pause from the ordinary.

So when most of the people in this country will be opening gifts and then eating a festive meal with family and friends, I would be eating Chinese and then watching Les Miserables.

Merry Christmas to my Christian friends, Shalom to my Jewish friends and
السلام عليكم  alsalam alaykom to my Arab cousins , Namaste’to the Hindus and 你好’ Nǐ hǎo in Chinese, and can I get another serving of Kung Pau Chicken please?Hello In Many Languages Rectangular Sticker


About rachel bar

Psychotherapist and supervisor.
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28 Responses to A Jewish Christmas

  1. aFrankAngle says:

    Simply a post from the heart, and with bounds of dignity and respect. Many thanks for sharing … and also for visiting my gathering. Shalom!

  2. lylekrahn says:

    The anxiety producing gift purchase I’m sure is shared by many!!

  3. Margot says:

    I’m no fan of Elvis but his Classic Christmas Album is absolutely the best!!! I’ve been playing it at the office over and over. My assistant who is Christian is going out of her mind!

  4. Martha Carr says:

    We celebrate Christmas but often go to the movies on Christmas day (if we are not cooking!)
    Have also been known to get up early and head for the snow to go skiing for the day before returning for Christmas dinner somewhere else! The mountain is usually empty on Christmas morning. How else can we have a white Christmas? I’ll be thinking of you eating Chinese!

  5. Dale Joyner says:

    There was the year we went to a Chinese restaurant on Xmas day and on the door was posted a “thank you” message from the owners (obviously to the non-Christmas crowd) for choosing their restaurant! And yes, we will be hearing Les Mis @ 8:45 tomorrow morning – “do you hear the people sing, singing a song of angry men…” Must be “their” Chinese restaurant is closed on 12/25!!!

    ~ ~ Happy Holidays one and all ~ ~

  6. Pnina says:

    I am always amazed by your writing skills! Now that we are in Israel – I couldn’t believe that my girls tell me they miss Xmas carols, I guess it stuck to our bones…

  7. Happy Holidays, a Happy Hanukkah to you Rachael, I celebrate secular Christmas with my grandkids and my holiday is Jule. See you at the Chinese restaurant. 🙂

  8. wordkate says:

    We have people of many faiths here but we have no problems

  9. Mary says:

    We like the peaceful atmosphere as the shops are open on Sundays now.And I like hearing carols

  10. Glad I “opened” this email to and read your post…I always wondered what those who did not celebrate Christmas did…Now I have a little glimpse…Thanks for the peek and hope you continue your tradition too…

  11. rachel bar says:

    Thanks Jaded. I’m glad that I was able to provide you the answer to this question. Merry Christmas!

  12. Margaret Sullivan says:

    wonderful writing.!

  13. Truett says:

    After a large meal on Christmas Eve at my parents home and then another large meal at my brother and sister-in-law’s home on Christmas Day, Norman and I met his mother and brother at a Chinese restaurant in the San Gabriel Valley. We had an 8pm reservation and the placed was packed. As we entered I noticed the stares of many patrons and I thought they were admiring my mother-in-law’s gaudy Christmas sweater but after reading your blog I’m wondering what the odd looks were really about. We had a great time and the food was fabulous. The table next to us was playing charades at the end of their meal as if they have done this a dozen times. It was wonderful. I think we have started a new Christmas Day tradition.

  14. Jim Palmer says:

    I too am amazed at your writing skills given the fact that English is your second language….but to the point, Does Christmas or Hanukkah really mean much anymore in the increasingly secular world we live in today??…..Except for a few bible beaters, Christmas is just for the kids …..Not being Jewish, i don’t know about Hanukkah……..

  15. wordkate says:

    I agree with Jim.Here we are said to be a Christin country but there’s very little religious matter on the TV for those unable to get out… it’s just the usual Carols from King’s College Cambridge
    which is stunning but after that…..
    Not good for the spirits at all except the ones in glass bottles!

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