I started today on a mission. I will not get the Christmas Blues.
What are the Christmas Blues you ask? A unique phenomena affecting Jewish people in largely Christian communities. Every December 24 to 25 you’re suddenly isolated. Your friends are all busy, stores are closed, the only music you hear is Christmas-themed…even restaurants are closed (aside from Asian establishments – bless you China King). Homework assignment: ask any one of your Jewish friends what they do on Christmas and they will undoubtedly tell you that they go to a movie and eat Chinese food – it’s all we’re left with.
Here’s a blog excerpt from Jvibe.com, a magazine for Jewish teens: “Oh, I used to think of Christmas Day as the culmination of the entire depressing Christmas season. But you know that on December 25th, when the rest of your town shuts down and puts up blinking lights, the Chinese restaurants are going to be open. And in those Chinese restaurants, there will be Jews. Lots of Jews […] You’re just out at the bookshop for some enjoyable downtime browsing and then up come the strains of Christmas music. I never expect it the first time each year, but my beautiful classical music has been tossed in favor of some classic Christmas song that echoes in my head as, “Jesus and Santa and Rudolph and everyone else celebrates Christmas except for you.“
Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas…the lights, the cookies, the holiday cards plastered across our fridge. I just wish I had an equivalent celebration. My parents did a great job making Hanukkah a magical occasion for Dan and me when we were younger, and always surrounded us with people of our faith. That said, we never got school off, and even now I have to take a personal day on Jewish holidays. As an adult, it’s harder to get jazzed up about a holiday that no one around you understands or celebrates.
The factors above have somehow conditioned me to feel a sense of dread for the Christmas season, culminating with Christmas Eve. I always feel like I’m missing out on something. But, like I said, this year my mission was to combat the loneliness and make the most of the holiday.
Jim does a great job of celebrating Hanukkah with me, and when Christmas comes, we spend the day taking part in his family’s traditions. Our own blend of celebrating spans about three weeks and is affectionately deemed Chrismukkah.
Today I left work around 1:30 and instead of going home to mope, I remembered my mission and decided to take Bruno to the PetSmart Dog Park at Washington Park. After that I went for a hike, got a haircut and made dinner. Jim and I made a Christmas cake and watched a movie and the entire time I was concerned that he wasn’t having a traditional or festive enough Christmas Eve. After we talked about it I realized that there’s actually no standard for what you need to do on a holiday (or it’s eve).
Right now I’m laying on the couch while Jim and Dave are playing video games. Every few minutes I call out the number of minutes left until Christmas (nine right now). Everyone’s happy – despite our lack of participation in any type of holiday activity.
The more I think about it, the more I realize that regardless of which holidays you celebrate, make the most of them. Don’t compare or set standards or expectations, just surround yourself with people you love and appreciate just being together. I think that’s more important than Christmas trees or menorahs or any kind of cookie.