Tuesday, January 4, 2011

O christmas tree O christmas tree, I have an awesome christmas tree!

I'm supposed to be writing up a statistics syllabus right now, and am doing everything in my power to procrastinate. If there's anything more tedious than writing up a syllabus, it's writing up a syllabus for a statistics course. Or perhaps actually teaching the course...

So thought I would stop in and post a quick update. Sometime soon I want to post a longer blog post about piercings (putting this here to remind myself, since I keep having great ideas for blog posts for this blog and then forget them).

So here's a post about christmas and facebook and my secret life. This year we got a giant fake pre-lit christmas tree from my in-laws over thanksgiving. They are getting a bit older, and got themselves a smaller more manageable tree that they can drag up and down the stairs themselves. (We have yet to take our tree down- will probably do that this week- and I'm not looking forward to dragging it up to the attic myself)

I freakin love this tree. Last year we had a small table top tree, which was my first ever christmas tree. I don't know what it is, but having a lit up tree in the house just makes the house seem very homey and nice and warm feeling, especially in the dark depressingly long and dark nights of the winter.

We are building up our own collection of ornaments to go along with the tree. We don't have a lot yet, and we're specifically avoiding anything with a religious theme. I really want to get a flying spaghetti monster ornament like this one. In fact, I really want to buy or make a FSM tree topper like this one but alas money is a bit tight right now, so that may have to wait a bit. So this year we used one of the dog toys- a purple stuffed octopus- and we got a tiny christmas hat for it, and that was our tree topper.

These are my two favorite ornaments:

One is a blown glass ornament that I got at a music festival last year from a glass blower friend of mine. The other one is from new mexico or something like that, and has pictures of houses with windows that light up. In the top corner you can also see one of our dog ornaments that looks like our dogs.

So a few days ago I put up pictures of our christmas tree on facebook. Got lots of comments from my non-jewish friends and of course not a single one from my jewish friends. Radio silence.

Over christmas I put up a facebook status update about B's family's traditional christmas-even dinner of all appetizers, and I did have a comment from a still-frum friend from high school who said something about how that is a cool tradition and she has to incorporate it into one of her family holidays, like maybe for one of the nights of Chanukah. I thought that was really really cool of her, and it made me like her even more than I already like her. So few frum people from my former life would say something like that..be able to not judge that I'm celebrating christmas, and still find a way to connect to what I'm saying.

A couple of days ago I noticed a few of my friends were suddenly friends with this dude I went to middle school with who I was friends with way back in the day (I assume he has recently joined facebook). I mostly went to all-girls schools until college, but for 2 years- 7th and 8th grade- I went to a co-ed school because my parents got pissed off at the previous school we had gone to. While I was there I was friends with this guy. The summer after high school I went to live with my cousins in Israel for a couple of months, and he was on the same plane as me, and we hung out for pretty much the entire flight (which I was on by myself- he was with his mom). That was the last time I saw him.

So I friended him on facebook, and I immediately had this little moment of panic- like OH NO he is going to see that I posted a picture of a christmas tree! He's going to KNOW that I'm not religious!

It's funny really, cause who really gives a crap if he knows? I haven't seen this dude in like 15 years. I'm probably not going to talk to him very much on facebook if he accepts my friend request. If anything, I should be more worried about the dozens of relatives that I'm friends with on facebook, cause I might actually talk to those people again in the future.

I spent so many years keeping secret that I am not religious anymore, that it's like I have this automatic reflex to hide anything that doesn't make me seem religious. I agonized over posting the pictures in the first place.

I'm not ashamed of the fact that I celebrate christmas- I think it's a really awesome holiday. If B's family didn't celebrate it, I probably wouldn't have ever started celebrating it myself, but now that I've celebrated four christmases I think I would keep up the tradition no matter what- I love the tree, I love giving gifts to people, I love the lights, and I love the family time. I don't hate getting gifts either. :)

When I was a kid I always was so jealous of the people who celebrated christmas...not because I wanted presents or anything, but cause it was this huge cheery mid winter holiday, with beautiful lights everywhere, that almost every person celebrates, that pervades everything, and that seemed pretty awesome as a kid (actually, as an adult, it's still awesome) but I was always told that it wasn't for me, and that I couldn't participate. Even if I said I liked someone's christmas display, my mom would get this sour look on her face.

Well now I get to do what I want. But there's still that part of me that wants hide it, like it is shameful. I'm sure some smart ass frum commenter would say that it's my "jewish neshama" or some BS like that. In sociology we call this "Socialization" - that self internalized feeling of guilt you get when you break a norm. And I sure am breaking a huge frum norm by celebrating christmas. I used to get that same feeling when I ate non kosher food, and later when I started eating on kosher meat, and again when I first ate bacon, when I first ate shrimp, when I first ate crab, etc. The feelings all faded with time. Maybe the the weird twinge in my stomach that I get when posting facebook pictures of my decidedly non-frum life will fade with time as well.


  1. After all you been through, I'm amazed at how you still thirst for approval from your old life and connections. Why do you have any expectation that your frum friends would wish you mazel tov on your new christmas tree? Why can't you just enjoy your tree and your new holiday and understand that your frum friends aren't going to be celebrating with you? You're lucky they respect your choices enough not to comment. I think it's unfair of you to expect more.

  2. I don't expect them to approve of my new life or whatever...my comment was more because there are some people who seem to comment on like EVERYTHING I put up on facebook EVER, and they were noticeably absent from those photos/status update. I don't expect them to wish me a mazel tov or anything, that would be ridiculous.

    At the same time I did really appreciate the comment my HS friend made, precisely because it is one of the only comments I've had made to me by a frum friend that was NOT disapproving.

    And I'm not friends with people who would make nasty comments on my facebook at all, as I don't think anyone making judgmental comments about my life deserves a place in it, especially if they would make that comment in a public forum like FB.

  3. When, I posted pictures of "food in China" for example on my blog I avoided any that looked really non-kosher. I just wanted my brother to feel more comfortable with it.

  4. I'm with Abbi. What did you expect them to say? Be glad they didn't put :( faces. I have a lot of non-Jewish and non-relgious friends on FB. No, I didn't wish anyone a Merry Christmas. I said nothing. Would you expect comments from frum folks if you put pictures of yourself eating in McDonalds?

    I wish Christmas could be a non-religious holiday. I think it would be lovely to celebrate with the whole world and enjoy the lights and beauty and all. It does go against Judaism and actually is very anti-atheist as well. I can understand why you celebrate it but if you are as against religion as you claim to be, I'd imagine you'd want nothing to do with the celebration of the birth of Christ.

  5. For me it is strange to see someone who was stuck in religion go for something pagan. Not sure if I would do that, but...kol hakavod you are at peace with it!

    I am very much interested reading more about socialization; would you have recommendations for articles / books?

    Your admiring kofer friend ;)

  6. See, we used to drive around Brooklyn when we went in to visit our super-yeshivish relatives and OOO and AAHH over the crazy, over-the-top Christmas displays. Sometimes my parents would davka drive out of their way to look at them. Maybe that's why I never felt like I was missing out on anything with Christmas. I got to love the lights and trees without wanting the holiday, you know?

    That being said, I can't blame you for liking a family-oriented holiday with pretty doodads :) especially if Brent's family doesn't make it overtly religious at all.

  7. Even to expect frum people to accept your lifestyle is a strech, I mean they believe what you are doing is wrong. That is besides for the fact that they are very threatened by you. I mean you are living proof that their are nice and good people outside the frum world. Also the fact that you were frum and have decided that its not the "truth" also threatens them.
    I love your blog , and am slowly reading through it.

  8. I'm probably going to represent exactly what you negatively expect from a frum person, but reading your post about what you like about Christmas just makes me kind of sad. Because of all the things you list that you love about Christmas - you write "I love the tree, I love giving gifts to people, I love the lights, and I love the family time. I don't hate getting gifts either. :)" All of those things, with the exception of the tree, are true about Chanukah as well. I love the lights of the Chanukah menorah. Why don't you appreciate those, and yet appreciate the ones on the tree? Family time is a huge part of a Jewish life - not only once a year, but every week. Yet, I don't see you praising that. I'm sad to see someone who has to walk into the neighbor's yard to appreciate what she already had, but just didn't want to see.

    I'm sure you have a rebuttal to all this- but have you thought that maybe that is why you don't have a bunch of Facebook comments from your frum friends about how happy they are for you to celebrate Christmas?

  9. I'd say that pre-lit Christmas trees are the best thing since sliced bread, but I think they're a better invention than sliced bread!
    May you and your offspring never have to unravel a knotted up string of Christmas tree lights!

  10. jewish-

    if my jewish family hadn't totally rejected me and would invite me and my husband for chanukah, maybe I would like that holiday too. But as it is the only "family time" I get is with my husband's family.

    Plus as i've said countless times before, I have ethical problems with celebrating chanukah since it's a celebration of secular jews who wanted to be more assimilated in greek culture (aka jews more like me) being defeated by fundamentalist religious jews. So why would i celebrate that?

  11. you have a problem with Chanukah because of the origin but you have NO problem with Christmas? The birth of Chirst is your favorite holiday as a self-proclaimed atheist? Sorry thats hypocritical and shows you are only doing what you want not what is really honest...

    Its OK to live your life how you want but dont make it out that everything that us Jewish / frum Jews are doing is bad and wrong and dumb and BS and everything you are doing is honest and good and wonderful and true.

  12. did you miss the part about how my family celebrates christmas, while the part of my "family" (if you can even call them tha anymore) that celebrates chanukah is not really talking to me let alone inviting me over for the holidays? Or do you just glom onto talking points?

    as for problems with christmas, no I don't really have many problems with celebrating a mid winter festival that was appropriated by christians, especially since we pretty much celebrate it as a "mid winter family holiday with gift exchange" and don't bring jesus into it at all. And personally I find the ideas of jesus less offensive than jews killing other jews because they want to assimilate into popular culture, and then being so happy about it that they make a holiday celebrating it. So yeah.

  13. and I don't think everything jews do is bad and wrong and dumb and BS, don't put words into my mouth, I've never said anything of the sort- I just said I have no interest in being a part of it, it's not for me. That doesn't mean it doesn't have value for other people, just that it's not my thing.

  14. You didn't buy a winter solstice tree. You wrote about your awesome Christmas tree. Whether it was appropriated, borrowed or coaxed from other cultures, the holiday you celebrated was a Christian holiday, as it is known all over the world. There's nothing wrong with celebrating it if that's what you feel like doing, but as an academic and an atheist, I think the very least you can do is be honest and acknowledge that you're celebrating a religious holiday.

    It doesn't take a $100 an hour therapist to tell that Chanukah= bad, mean birth family and Christmas = happy new non-Jewish husband's family. You have negative emotional associations with anything Jewish and positive associations with non-Jewish things like Christmas trees and mayo on corned beef sandwiches.

    Which is fine. Just be honest and acknowledge these facts and then you'll process the hurt and anger you still feel towards your past more efficiently.




  16. Kick-ass, brudda. Hey, dude, let's git past alla the hypocritical BS on religion and focus on how long our Finite Existence is. 88ish years?? Q: What the #@!! happens AFTER death if our souls are indelible?? A: If society’s going to Hell, don’t you think it’s time to wake U.S. up? --- I was called by God to make a blog; however, I made NINE, sardonic satire, avant-garde, efficacious blogs (the corpus-colossus-conundrum) because of all the experiences I had in my sinFULL existence. All I want you to do is read'm and ‘make thy choice’ -SAW (wonderful, wonderful films). Yes, yes, I realize maaany mortal Christians Divinely Judge; to judge YOU only further confuses us. And I refuse to do that. Only God blessa youse -Fr. Sarducci, ol SNL

  17. Chanukah is not about triumphing over secular Jews. Further not all nonreligious certainly by today's standards were on the side of the Greeks. Chanukah is about triumphing over the ban on Judaism from Jews and Greeks nor is it about killing anyone, anymore than Christmas is the celebration of the birth of someone preparing a manger. Chanukah is not celebrated by just frum Jews. Perhaps you feel the need to view it differently but it is not "the view" it is your view. We did not have your experiences, nor did you have ours and we don't have to accept your view.

  18. Hi.
    I just found your blog about 15 minutes ago and immediately started crying. Thank you, THANK YOU, for posting about your experiences. I'm in what people like to call an "interfaith" marriage, as well (although we enjoy telling people that WE aren't interfaith... we have the exact same atheist beliefs as each other!) and am trying to deal with my husband's Orthodox extended family who boycotted our wedding and basically shun us. I have to meet them this week at a family event, so obviously I'm stressed about that, but I think I really started crying because I recognize in your blog the same stuff I recognize in my life. It seems like your little family and my little family are just trying to live, be good people, and love and yet we are torn down because of our marriages. It's just so hard. So, wow, I just overshared a lot, but again- thank you. I'm sorry so many of your readers give you such a hard time. Most people have no idea how HARD it is to be in this situation, thankfully, and don't understand that silence is so powerful and painful. XOXO.


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