Friday, December 25, 2015

What is it About Christmas?

Christmas is such a weird time for me. At 32 years old, I've still spent more of my life in the world of American, secular Christmas than I have in accepting that everything's closed and the Jews stick to movies and Chinese food.

When I was in Israel, I lamented the fact that there weren't holiday lights or obnoxious Christmas carols played over loudspeakers everywhere I went. I love Chanukah and its lights, but in the U.S. the experience is isolated and not as public as it appears in Israel. In Israel, you see the lights of Chanukah everywhere you go, and it feels festive and celebratory. In the U.S., every night I was out during Chanukah I looked around at houses and apartments hoping to see a chanukiyah, but no dice. Not even in the "Jewish" areas I drove around.

Now, as it's Christmas day, I'm mourning the loss of the season because come January 1, people will start taking down their decorations, the festive seasonal American secular Christmas machine will shut down, and it will simply be winter again. I love winter, but there's a difference during December. A sense of joy. Come January, it's just grumpy people angry that it's snowing and cold.

Part of me wonders if I'll ever get over my love of the season. I think the things that paint our character and personality happen most aggressively in our childhood. If you experience something as a child, it sticks with you for life. The tastes, scents, emotions all stick with you forever. Things that you absorb in your 20s and 30s don't hit you as hard as they do when you're younger. It's the growing years, the time when your brain and emotional maturity are coming of age.

So, I suppose, the fact that I grew up in American, secular Christmas, never going to church on Christmas or Christmas Eve (save in high school when I went once because a friend was in a Christmas pageant and another time I went to "midnight mass" with another friend) with my family, will always paint my December experience. Luckily, I don't long for a Christmas tree stocked full of presents or a big feast of roladin (an old family dish of expensive, thinly sliced beef with onions and pickles wrapped up inside and cooked in a tomato stew sauce). I'm not sure what it is about it. The lights? The scents ...

Anyhow. Back to Shabbat cooking for me. Next year, thankfully, Christmas and Chanukah fall in sync, with Chanukah beginning on December 24, 2016. I appreciate when the holidays are inline. Do you?

Additional reading: From December 25, 2007, a turning-point event that shaped my conversion experience.