Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Oh christmas tree

Oh Christmas tree
Oh Christmas tree
I have a tiny Christmas tree!

(pictures soon maybe)

Last night B and I bought our christmas tree, which is the first christmas tree I've ever had! (other then the ones we decorate at the in-laws, but those are their trees, not mine). It is a table top fake tree, and has these neat LED light things that change colors. Very psychedelic. We also got some of those generic colored glass ball ornaments, an ornament that kinda looks like Barkley (actually we got that one a few weeks ago), and one that has a space for pictures (B! I hope you are getting on that right now!) and says something like "first christmas together." Even though as B pointed out like 20 times in the store, it's not technically our first christmas together, but it's our first christmas together as a married couple, so yeah.

Anyways, I LOVE having a little tree in my living room! Somehow it makes the room all homey and festive. We also hung up some lights on our sun porch and we've been turning them on at night.

Growing up I obviously didn't celebrate was always this thing that seemed happy and full of awesomeness to me, but was forbidden and was something that other people did. Later on I started celebrating it in a stereotypical jewish way- for a few years I had big parties on christmas for all my jewish friends, and a couple of years I did the chinese food and movie thing. My first *real* christmas was 2 years ago, at B's house.

I really really like it. All the lights and trees are really pretty, and I love how my neighborhood looks now with all the houses lit up. I love the gift exchange, and buying/making gifts for people is almost more fun then getting them! Getting a bunch of gifts at once is pretty awesome too- growing up my family wasn't much of a gift family, and getting a bunch of gifts at once is something I never really experienced until I started celebrating christmas (maybe at my bat mitzvah, but that's it). I would get maybe one present at my birthday, but usually would just get money to buy my own present, my parents would give gelt (money) for chanukah too. At a certain point my parents stopped giving anything at all to us, and started making charitable donations in our name around Chanukah time. They still do that in fact- I spoke to my dad a few weeks ago and he is going to donate to a battered woman's shelter in my name. Which is pretty awesome, I admit (Last year I asked him to donate to footsteps, but I don't think he actually did that). But you know what? Getting gifts is just nice dammit! And getting a bunch of cash is totally not the same!

I love getting together with family for a big meal too- B's family traditionally has a meal made up entirely of appetizers on christmas eve, followed by present opening, and then a big meal on christmas day. Having grown up in a Jewish family, and having a big meal every Friday night and Saturday afternoon, I really enjoy getting together for a big multiple-course meal. With only two of us at home, we don't really have a lot of opportunities for that, although we usually have a big breakfast together on Saturday mornings and we eat dinner together every night. But we don't even have a real table to eat at, so it's not the same. Once we have kids I'd like to start doing some kind of weekly big special family meal, along with having regular dinner together every night of course.

Is it weird that I feel no desire at all to celebrate any of the holidays I grew up with? I still like thanksgiving, which I grew up with, but all the jewish holidays...they just don't really hold any meaning for me. I guess becuase I always felt they were an obligation, or a restriction on things I couldn't do, but I don't remember feelings of excitement or joy about Jewish holidays that were similar to the way I feel about Christmas. I love Christmas!

Meanwhile I know chanukah starts sometime this week (which I found out from my calendar), but I have no desire to light my menorah, play with dreidles or eat latkes or sufganiot(jelly donuts). And I probably won't do any of those things, unless I happen to run into a chabadnik on campus giving out free latkes (because as a jew and a grad student, I can never turn down free latkes). On philosophical grounds, since Chanukah is a celebration of religion over Secularization/Hellenization, it seems someone wrong to celebrate it.

Also for those who eat latkes and also eat at mcdonalds- are the hash browns at mcdonalds breakfast totally the same as a thick latke or what?

Please no comments about how I'm a nazi/horrible jew/might as well convert to Christianity cause I'm such a goy now. You also can read about The true meaning of christmas over at B's blog.


  1. It's funny, really, how Jews get so very bent out of shape when it comes to Christmas Trees. I say this as one who did for many years, so I know what I'm talking about. For me, at least, the tree symbolized so many bad things: the dominance of Christian culture, the (ostensibly) tenuous position of Jews in the US, yadda yadda yadda. Thing is, once you get over the "symbolism," what you're left with is a tree that looks nice, smells good, and conjures up very warm feelings of family and togetherness. Bravo for embracing the tree!

  2. I get the feeling that you like being part of the majority when it comes to holidays etc. I never saw Christmas as being attractive growing up and did get piles of presents for birthdays and smaller ones for Channukah so I didn't feel like I was missing out on that. I had ambivalent feelings about Jewish holidays and Shabbat. I didn't like the restrictions but did like the other aspects. Now I'm married and neither of us are from a Christian background (my wife is from China) so we don't have any desire to celebrate Christmas either. Last year we went to the coast for a picnic (as it's the middle of summer here) with a bunch of Indian friends. A former girlfriend in the US who was also Chinese did seem to want to do Christmas stuff etc. and fit in with the majority. But I'm happy to be part of the minority.

  3. It's really not about fitting in with the majority. Sometimes people just enjoy things regardless of who else does it, who may be watching, or what it may symoblize to other people.

  4. omg ginx when did you take that awesome picture of barkley that is now your avatar? :)

  5. mOOm- maybe the reason a bunch of people (myself included) like christmas is just cause it's farkin awesome? :)

    I never was jealous because it was something *the majority* was doing (otherwise I would probably listen to Britney spears or whomever is popular these days), but because I could never even say something like "those lights are awesome" without my parents (or other people) jumping down my throat. Like, I always really liked the season and all the decorations and the celebratory mood, but I was always told I couldn't be part of that, which kinda sucked- not becuase everyone else was doing it, but because it seemed awesome, and I didn't get to do it. If that makes sense.

    If your wife never celebrated it though,I can see why you wouldn't start- even though I love christmas now, I don't think I would have ever celebrated it if I hadn't married someone who celebrates it, and who has family traditions around it.

  6. Rogueregime- how does the tree symbolize the dominance of christians? If anything it symbolizes the inability of christians to stamp out pagan ideas. :)

  7. You have a Christmas tree! Awesome (although I'm from the 'far out' generation)!

  8. OK, yeah growing up we used to sometimes have a vegetarian Christmas pudding bought from a health food store and definitely appreciated the Christmas lights in London and none of this was seen as a problem. I don't know what will happen if we have children - will we end up giving them Christmas presents etc. because all their friends have or start celebrating a mix of Chinese and Jewish holidays or do all three :)

  9. You nazi/horrible Jew who might as well convert to Christianity cause you are such a goy now.

  10. I know it's such an obvious point, but it must be said: Chanuka is a problem because it's the triumph of religion over secularisation / Hellenism (not the same thing, by the way) but Christmas - the celebration of God being born in human form, is just fine!?

  11. Antony, christmas was basically an appropriation of old pagan holidays they used to have on the winter solstice, the darkest/shortest day of the year. Much like easter, the spring equinox festival, which is why they have eggs and bunnies at easter (both signs of fertility, which is associated with spring).

    When the christians were trying to get a bunch of pagens to convert to christianity these new christian holidays arose so that more people (who did not want to lose their traditional holidays) would be willing to convert. Many christian "saints" are actually old pagan gods who were declared saints for the same reason (to gain converts).

    People have been holding festivals on the solstices probably for as long as humans have been around; because it is based on the length of days, people were able to coordinate the timing of those festivals before the advent of calendars. When most of humanity were living in hunter-gatherer small tribes, they would have large regional festivals in which many clans/tribes would gather and would exchange gifts and arrange marriages with spouses from other tribes/clans. Things like Stonehenge, the mounds in the Midwest, etc, are all remnants of these ancient festivals.

    I see no problem celebrating a winter festival, and who cares what the name is. We don't celebrate it in any kind of religious way, and most if not all traditions we do follow are based on these ancient festivals and don't have anything to do with christianity.

  12. I love Christmas! I have no idea why, but I just love the smell of the Christmas trees and all the lights, and the carols, and the whole atmosphere...I've never celebrated it, but I really want to, and one day I will :) Enjoy your little tree!

  13. Hi ! I read this by the link on alyets page. You described the feelings and joy so well! I am catholic and your correct on the history . I was saying( forgive my spelling I'm on cell..) The Jewish holiday my friends in Israel have been educating me as they come up... Judaism seems more hands on interactve. I find that nice... Of course the actuality Of doing !it might be different. Whereas the religious aspect comes into the home not just synague. At Christmas we attend church yes but religious ?requirment ends there except for in your heart but the family tradtiona celebrating are food getting together giving laughing loving.
    Religion aside.. I would like a mix... One of aleyets commenters sole of shabbat 'what is bad about a couple or family turning off the world and sharing a meal by candle lite?' I agree! In any case your post shows we can take the good from each religion and embrace in our own way! Nothing wrong with feeling joychristmas ic great and so is Hanukkah to me!
    can be universial

  14. AE, you know I really try to refrain from stupid judgmental comments on your life (which after all is your life, your choices) and I hope you don't see this as stupid and judgmental. I just read your post and felt really, really sad. Like blubbery crying sad. I'm so sorry that Judaism has failed you so miserably. I look at the picture of that happy family celebrating Chanukah and I think, that could be any of my friends, any of my family, anyone that just slips away because Judaism, Jewish people, Jewish culture, Jewish everything has been such a source of pain and ugliness for you. I'm so sorry your birth religion has failed you so utterly and so miserably.

    I'm happy that you are happy though, and wish you only more happiness.

    The weird thing about your rejecting Judaism and finding such joy in stuff like putting up Christmas trees is that in the eyes of halachic Judaism, you are still Jewish and you can always come back, no matter how far you go in the other direction. That door will never be locked, no matter how many times you close it.

    Well, Merry Xmas AE. Hope you get some great presents. Glad you have found real contentment.


  15. AE, You must know the theories that Chanuka also was a Winter solstice festival (in fact the Talmud says as much) and therefore you can de-religion-ise it as much as you claim to do to Christmas.

    Everyone of your arguments against celebrating Chanuka would apply to Christmas if you were intellectually honest, and yet somehow it doesn't.

    Therefore I come back to my point; you avoid the Jewish religious symbols, even in their thoroughly secular form, and celebrate your rejection thereof, but you tell us all how much you love Christmas.

    Surely what's going on here is not a rejection of religion, but a rejection of the Jewish religion, whereas the symbols of any other are fine.

    I'm also blubbery sad but not because Judaism has failed you, but because you have vented all your anger against your parents, and all your arrogance onto Judaism.

    Happiness is important, but honesty, of the intellectual type, is also important and perhaps more so.

  16. I have no anger against judaism. At first I did, but I spent most of my college/begining of grad school years trying out different strands of judaism. And it just doesn't really do anything for me. It's not out of anger and I'm not "rejecting" it, rather, I just see no point, so I just don't do it. Kinda like keeping kosher, keeping shabbas, pretty much every other aspect of judaism. I'm just not a practicing jew anymore.

  17. It's curious (maybe slightly ironic?) that as a sociologist, you're willfully conflating the cultural and religious aspects of Judaism. Plenty of non-practicing Jews celebrate Chanukah with their non-Jewish partners as a cultural holiday just as you celebrate Christmas.

    And your reasoning for not celebrating is intellectually weak as well. You spent a few paragraphs going into why it's ok to celebrate Christmas as a non-practicing Christian but you assume there is no parallel reasoning for non practicing Jews to celebrate Chanuka.

    At the end of the day, it's about educating your children about their cultural heritage. You're ok with them never having a clue about the holiday you celebrated throughout your whole childhood?

  18. well I'm not NOT celebrating chanukah based on "intellectual reasoning"; in the end it comes down to, I don't care about chanukah and it doesn't do anything for me, while I enjoy christmas and I like celebrating it. And yes, I have no problem with my kids not knowing anything about judaism, as I have said countless times before.

    all that being said, I'm thinking of making some latkes this week, but likely won't get around to it.

  19. You said that you objected to Chanuka because of the "victory of religion over Hellenism" part of it.

    But Christmas has a "God is born in human form" part of it!

    Then you said that Christmas has a secular aspect.

    But Chanuka also has a secular aspect.

    Then you said you just don't like Chanuka.

    Where's the intellectual honesty?

    Isn't it the case that you don't like Chanuka because it's Jewish?

    And what type of people are those who just object to things because they are Jewish?

  20. I don't dislike chanukah, I just don't like it (or feel any particular connection to it). Don't like =/= dislike.

    So saying "ISN"T IT TRUE YOU..." is a straw man. But thanks, I always love a nice accusation of antisemitism.

  21. I didn't say you dislike Chanuka, so you're using the Straw man. I said you object to it, and you do, as in:

    "On philosophical grounds, since Chanukah is a celebration of religion over Secularization/Hellenization, it seems someone wrong to celebrate it."

    "Seems somehow wrong" is something of an objection in my book.

    I still don't understand why Chanuka presents a philosophical problem and Christmas doesn't.

    That's why I suggest that the only problem I can imagine with Chanuka, that Christmas does not share, is that it's Jewish.

  22. the only problem with chanukah that christmas does not share is that I don't care about chanukah while I think christmas is awesome.

  23. So the attempted philosophical justification of the rejection of Chanuka was a throwaway line that you didn't really mean?

    And some things that people do for religious reasons are OK to copy, and others are not?

  24. And I thought (I really did - that's not a rhetorical device) that your choices were based on rational intellectual philosophy. But they're not - they're just based on emotion.

  25. Antony I never claimed my choices were based on rational intellectual philosophy. I don't believe anyone in the world is capable of making choices based purely on rational intellectual philosophy, and anyone who tells you otherwise is trying to sell you something. Or is an economist.

    I'm sorry if it disappoints you that when I make choices about my own life I take my emotions into account. Frankly, I don't know why you care about my choices at all, but you seem intent on debating my rationale for them.

    Here it is: I celebrate christmas because I like to. I don't celebrate chanukah or anything else related to judaism, because I don't care about those holidays. The end.

  26. I think you celebrate Christmas because it isn't Jewish.

  27. So religious-based rituals are all right if you like them. Funny how the ones you like are Christian, and the ones you don't like are Jewish.

  28. James, not one tradition I follow for christmas is based on the christian religion.

  29. That's a fair point.

    So you don't follow Jewish or Christian rituals. But why are pagan ones OK?

    Why do atheists say we wouldn't celebrate a Christian festival, but since Christmas is actually based on the cult of Mithras, that makes it all right? Is paganism more intellectually appealing than Christianity or Judaism?


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