Things I don’t ‘get’ about Christmas because I’m a Jew….

Being Jewish in a Christian country at Christmas is a strange old thing; it’s one of the very few occasions when I feel different or other in my own country.
Publish date:
December 24, 2012
Christmas, jewish, being jewish at Christmas

Merry Christmas one and all! Now this being Christmas Eve I’m sure you’ll all spend tomorrow sitting round the fireplace with your entire extended families, decked out in matching hand-knitted Christmas jumpers, drinking yourselves silly on advocaat and eggnog, because that’s what you all do at Christmas, isn’t it?

You see I wouldn’t really know. No, my Christmas day is usually spent moping round the house, clicking refresh on Facebook and desperately searching for something other than a Bond film to watch on the telly. But don’t feel too sorry for me, you can cancel that call to ChildLine, I’m not some unfortunate Tiny Tim. I’m just a Jew.

Being a Jew (or for that matter a Muslim, Sikh, Hindu, Buddhist or Scientologist I should imagine) in a Christian country at Christmas is a strange old thing; it’s one of the very few occasions when I feel different or other in my own country.

Yes, I can gorge myself on chocolate, exchange presents, stuff my face with turkey and have blazing rows with my family, but I’m still acutely aware that this day has no real significance for me.

And while I don’t want to undermine my own faith or Christianity by celebrating traditions that aren’t mine and which I don’t believe in, I can’t help feeling a pang of sadness that I’ll never experience the traditional family Christmas immortalised on every TV show ever created in the Western world.

So, before you all tuck into your Christmas pudding with brandy butter and pass out on the sofa in front of The Queen’s Speech, here are some of the magical Christmas traditions I’ll never experience or truly understand because I’m a Jew…

What it’s like to have a Christmas treeYes, I have absolutely no idea what it’s like to have a great, big, living, breathing, garishly decorated tree in my living room for one month every year. I know lots of Jews throw out the rule book and get a Christmas tree (bad Jews), but my family don’t (because we’re good Jews – see how this works?).

I did once have a taste of Christmas tree life though. In my last job I was charged with sorting the office tree, which was most exciting. At first. In theory.

I’d always fancied that I’d be a dab hand at decorating a tree, and saw this as my opportunity to have one without any of the kosher guilt. I soon learnt that this whole real Christmas tree malarkey ain’t as easy as it looks.

Firstly they’re a bugger to decorate, and despite my high artistic hopes the tree ended up looking more Holiday Inn than Claridges.

Secondly, apparently, they have to be watered; a fact no one thought to mention. In the end the tree died a horrible, depressingly slow, thirsty, jaundiced death and I was racked with guilt. There’s a moral in there somewhere…

What it’s like to spend the day in the house with my entire extended familyAbout half way through every Christmas day I start to feel a bit sad (as I’m sure do most of you, except my sadness isn’t an early onset hangover in disguise).

I suddenly realise that everyone else in the land (apart from all the fellow Jews, and the Muslim’s, Sikhs, Buddhists, and all the lonely forgotten people, but you know, everyone else but them and us) is stuffed into their living rooms playing passive-aggressive games of charades with all of their extended families and I’m not.

I love charades, and I love my family. Just one day a year it would be nice to bring the two together. That is all.

To wake up on Christmas morning and be really truly stomach-flippingly excitedYes, no idea. None. Zip. When I wake up on the 25th December it’s not with a sense of excitement, but a slowly building sense of dread that one of the most boring days of the year has arrived, again.

You see the problem is this; if you don’t actively celebrate Christmas then there is absolutely fuck all to do on Christmas day. Nothing’s open, and the TV is shockingly bad (especially if you’re sober, and if you don’t celebrate Christmas you can’t really justify drinking from midday).

My mum and dad used to drag me with them on their annual Christmas walk. Perversely they usually head to Golders Green, a particularly Jewish part of North London, as it’s one of the few places where you might stumble upon an open shop or café.

December’s cold though, and when push comes to shove I’m more of a wallower than a get out and doer, so nowadays I like to stay behind, gorge myself on chocolate and generally feel gloomy. Although now that I've seen how that looks written down, maybe I should join them on the walk after all…

People thinking I might want to give or receive Christmas presents/ get into the Christmas spiritNo, I don’t believe that Jesus was the Messiah or the Son of God, and I don’t actively celebrate Christmas, but for the record that doesn’t mean I won’t give Christmas cards or presents, or (even more ridiculously) won’t want to receive them!

I may not be Christian, but I do live in a Christian country, so, when in Rome…(a good time to clarify that it was in fact the Romans not the Jews who killed Jesus? No? Ok then, moving on….).

So, getting in the spirit of it all (without actually getting into the spirituality) of course I want to show the people I love just how much they mean to me with a little token at this time of year. And as for receiving – well, it would be rude not to.

And there you have it; just a few of the many Christmassy things I’ll never experience because I’m Jewish.

But don’t feel too sorry for me because we have the Channukah, the festival of lights, and 8 days of presents and latkes (which are fried shredded potato), and handily it happens to fall in December too – what are the chances, eh?

Finally, in the spirit of giving I’ll leave you with this, one of my favourite ever South Park moments.

Of course I could have just referred you to this video in the first place, because as we all know, when it comes to social commentary no one ever quite hits the nail as hard or directly on the head as South Park…

Does my tale of non-Christmas conformity ring bells with you? Believers and non-believers, how do you spend your Christmas days?

What magical treats am I missing out on, and what traditions aren’t as good in real actual life as they look on TV?

I’m on Twitter @MissSisiG. Tweet me tomorrow, and save me from my boredom and death by high fructose corn syrup.