Being Jewish in a Non-Jewish community-Christmas Edition

By: Seth Finkle

Well, Hanukkah came and went, as did Christmas. Christmas is such an interesting time of the year for the Jews. Chinese food and a movie, anyone? For me and my brother we had an interesting experience.

From the time I was in kindergarten through 5th grade I have very distinct memories for this time of year. I remember my mother coming into my kindergarten class to make latkes, play dreidel, light the menorah, and explain the story of Hanukkah. As a young kid, I thought this was awesome. I got to show my classmates what I did instead of Christmas and they seemed interested. Well, as interested as kindergarteners can be.

The next year, I remember it got a little stranger. Yes, again my mom came in to explain what Hanukkah is. However, we were in first grade, and we were working on our writing skills. One day our teacher said we were going to write letter to Santa! I knew, at this point, Santa was (spoiler alert!) not real. I raised my hand to ask what I was supposed to do. After all, I was not going to write to Santa. The alternative my teacher came up with was to find a picture in a magazine I liked and write a story about it. I also remember my mother warning me not tell any of my friends about the truth about Santa.

From that year on, it was the same thing. The teacher would say, “Someone in the class does not celebrate Christmas. Now let’s bring him to the front of the class and he will tell you about what he does celebrate.” This occurred yearly not only in my class but a few other classes in the school. By the time I was in fifth grade everyone could recite the story with me as they knew it.

Middle school and high school showed a different situation. I no longer told everyone about Hanukkah, but choir class was always interesting. There are a ton of Christmas songs and very few Hanukkah songs. Sometimes we sang some rather religious themed songs. Once at a community choir I was part of, every song chosen was about Jesus. I understand it is an important time of year, and I was in the minority. But come on, we can celebrate the time of year and be a little sensitive to those of us that don’t have this holiday.

This animosity toward Christmas and the twitch I sometimes feel has continued to today. I do not want to leave my house to go shopping in November when I am bombarded with Christmas music everywhere. I know others feel the same way about this and I am not alone. Culturally it makes me feel that this time of year Christmas is the only holiday that is important.

Please do not think I am anti-Christmas, just anti-Christmas EVERYWHERE! I will say it’s not all bad. As a child, my family went to the extended-care hospital on Christmas to hand out presents to the patients, help serve lunch, and then sing carols. Imagine a bunch of Jews trying our hardest to sing Christmas carols. It was always fun and we felt like we were doing a good deed. Today I go home to celebrate the holiday with my step family, who are not Jewish. We always laugh and enjoy giving each other interesting gifts. (This includes ugly statues that one of us always gets each year as a gag.) It is a time when I can catch up with my friends.

I will say though that I feel grateful to be living in an area where we might be a minority, but I certainly do not feel like it. Vodkas and Latkes-Need I say more?



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