I have a long history of trashing Christmas on this blog. My second, third, and fourth posts way back in December 2004 when I started this thing were all anti-holiday diatribes. The following year, I tried to limit my Scrooge-like rants but still got in trouble for a post I wrote that all but accused Santa Claus of being a pedophile. In 2006, I restrained myself even further, and then worried about my lack of Christmas kvetching. Last year, I ignored Christmas completely but found time to bemoan some of the agonies of Hanukkah and the misguided connections of that holiday to the yuletide orgy of consumption.
My nephew Spencer is turning 13 next Tuesday and is gearing up for his Bar Mitzvah that will take place in May 2009. Spencer is a genius on the computer and a damn good writer, too. As part of his Bar Mitzvah preparation, he recently started his THIRD concurrent blog called “All About Mitzvah.” In his latest post, “December Crisis: Surviving the Holidays,” Spencer contemplates the problem his Jewish family faces every year: whether to celebrate Christmas. Spencer’s dad is not Jewish so that, in my opinion, gives them license to trot out any red and green decorations they like without the ghosts of our Chasidic great-grandparents rattling chains in protest like Jacob Marley in “A Christmas Carol.” But come to think of it, I don’t remember ever seeing a Christmas tree or any other signs of the holiday in my sister’s house when I was fool enough to visit Chicago during the winter. I guess the kids got their fill of stockings and candy canes when they’d visit their Christmas-lovin' relatives in Belleville, Illinois, my brother-in-law’s home town. But what about Spencer's query? Has Christmas become so secularized that it’s now “okay” for Jews to celebrate?
Not really. No matter how you slice it, it’s still about the birth of Baby Jesus, and while I do enjoy the festivities at my in-laws’ house, I would fear the hauntings I mentioned earlier if I dared to slaughter a pine tree and drag it into our living room. We never had any decorations in our house as kids, although I’m remembering one year when we were teenagers when my sister put blue and white ornaments a tiny tree and called it a Hanukkah Bush. Eww. As I’ve already stated, I have little tolerance for attempts to turn Hanukkah into “Jewish Christmas”—the two holidays have nothing to do with each other except an accidental proximity. And even that is in question after yesterday’s announcement by a group of international astronomers. Based on celestial clues from the story of Christ’s birth, they now believe that Mary's child was actually born on June 17th! Relax, kids, you’ve got six more shopping months until the real Christmas!