Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I know it's a little late, what with New Year's already past, but I have to chime in with a Christmas blog.

I love Christmas.  I think I love it more than people who grew up with it: being Jewish, I have almost no baggage for the holiday, so I can pick the good parts.  I know people whose Christmases are intense with family emotion and dynamics -- how many films have been made about this? -- but I don't have that.  It makes it very easy to love.

My favorite parts:

* The smell of a Christmas tree.  Walking into a home that has one is like smelling winter and warmth at the same time.  This year, I was tempted to buy a table wreath for myself just for the smell, but it still seemed wrong.  So I spent 15 minutes at Trader Joe's trying to find the most woodsily aromatic bouquet of flowers, hoping the pine greens used as filler would give me some of that Christmas tree smell.

* Saying "Merry Christmas."  This "Happy Holidays" thing irritates me to no end.  My holiday ended on December 12; after that there's no reason to be generic.  Christmas has a spirit, and I'm glad to invoke that.  I want to tell the more than 90% of the U.S. population that I truly hope their Christmas will be merry (including thinking: free of family drama), and I don't want to have to be vague about it.  I went to a party on Christmas day, and one of the guests gave everyone a hug and said, distinctly, "Merry Christmas!"  Both upon arrival and departure.  I gave her an extra warm hug and returned the wish.  On Christmas day it absolutely makes sense to use the holiday's specific name.

(In fact, compared to Rosh Hashanah, Chanukah is a minor holiday.  Shouldn't we Jews feel more oppressed at being wished "Happy New Year" on January 1?)

* Giving.  Receiving is fun because you get to open presents, and I certainly don't want to cut that part off, but I think giving is more fun.  I have a (Jewish) friend who complained about the obligation of gift giving.  I envied her: I am still beginning to recognize all the opportunities I have to give, and I'd be happy if I had more of them.

My first real Christmas was with an English family in Canada.  They assumed that I understood all the process and code of the holiday, that it was all so obvious, and I was utterly miserable: I couldn't figure out when to change out of my jammies, when to open presents, how to interpret the food, in fact (it being my first Christmas) even that we were supposed to have presents.  I hadn't had a Christmas morning since I believed in Santa Claus, and I didn't exactly bring presents back then (because Santa did, silly!).  That is not a good feeling.

The following year, I went to snowy Cleveland to be with my father and Christmas-celebrating stepmother.  Since I knew it would be a real Christmas and I'd already been burned on gift-giving, I woke up first thing on December 24 and ran to the mall to shop.  I rapidly reviewed the whole place and then bought all of my gifts at Origins.  A successful strategy I continue to employ: pick one specific store and decide what would be most appropriate for each giftee.  Most importantly, the Grinch's heart grew three sizes that day.  Not that I was a Grinch, but I did feel that great, warming feeling -- I was surrounded by people who were buying and giving gifts, I'd completed my shopping and had something for everyone, and I had, in effect, become Santa Claus.  I was struck with the Christmas spirit.  

1 comment:

levinzky said...

Hello, great post. I can relate in certain ways to your Christmas / "holiday" observations.... I was raised catholic, with the last name "Levine". Go figure. My sister and I joke about being psuedo-Jews.... but it never really was an issue until later in life....Hmm. maybe a good topic for a post? Merry Christmas! AND a happy New Year.