My family is Jewish, but we don’t really practice, which could be why we never got very good at it.
My parents were not Orthodox, Conservative or Reform Jews. They were Ambivalent Jews. My father, for instance, would observe Yom Kippur, but would draw the line when there was a World Series game on TV, especially if the Dodgers were playing. He was proud that a Jewish kid like Sandy Koufax made good, but less than pleased when Sandy declined to pitch on the High Holy Days.
I remember one time when my dad took me to visit his parents’ gravesite. He said a kadish, then he turned to me and said, “Let’s get breakfast.” So we went to a diner, and sat happily side-by-side at the counter eating our bacon and eggs….a real Norman Rockwell moment. Except that, after awhile, he leaned over to me and whispered, “Are people staring at me?” “I think so,” I replied. “It may be the combination of the bacon and yamulke.” He had left the cemetery without taking his off. And he couldn’t then, of course, without calling even more attention to it.
I also have a vague memory of another time, I’m assuming around Christmas, when my mother decorated our 12 inch black-and-white TV set with a brick-design border and hung stockings from it. I do not remember if she tuned to that old Yule Log show they used to play on, I think, WPIX: 24 hours of a log burning. (“Coming up after the break: more log!”)
Anyway, you can see why I grew up kind of confused about the whole Jewish thing.
But then I married a nice Jewish girl, who not only lit the menorah each night of Hanukah, but sang a song–in Hebrew–when she did it. It was only until years later that I found out that this song was comprised largely of made-up lyrics passed down through Barbara’s family, and possibly did not even contain actual Hebrew words.
Yes, her family preferred Christmas, too. Particularly the movie and Chinese food on Christmas Eve.
So, over the years, my little family has often had a Christmas tree, but mostly because gifts look silly under a menorah. Then we became aware of the negative environmental impact of having a live Christmas tree (“Can we sweep up all these needles?”), and also we got tired of shlepping a tree home, only to shlep it back out to the dumpster a few weeks later on January 1 (“The holidays are over; now get out!”). So we bought a fake tree which we used for a few years, until it became too much of a pain in the ass to get it down from the attic. (See previous post.)
You see, not only are we terrible Jews, we’re lazy Christians!
Why am I bringing all this up? Because now that we have this lovely house, I sort of feel like I want to decorate it for Christmas.
We won’t, of course. Waayyyy too much work. But it’s nice to imagine our new home, all decked out with a subtle array of lights (just the tasteful, white ones, so you don’t know if you’re looking at a house decorated for Christmas or an Italian restaurant) and perhaps some enormous stockings hanging off the side of our generator.
I’m not sure what it is about having a house for the first time that makes me desire to erect such a goyish display; perhaps it is because, for the first time in my life, I can. But I think it’s more that my idyllic image of home ownership in America includes a fresh layer of snow, a white picket fence, and the twinkling of Christmas decorations, as opposed to, say, a giant dreydl lawn ornament.
But here’s the thing: we have no plans to build a fence, we are not going to expend the effort to have even minimal decorations, and we definitely can do without snow.
Truth is, I don’t know what I really want. But I have a pretty good suspicion that I already have it.
See you soon, everyone, and happy holiday of your choice.