MAK may not be feeling the holiday spirit this year, but for some reason I am, more than usual. And I don’t even celebrate Christmas.
The holidays just seem to be looming larger in my life this year. I lighted my menorah for the first time in several years, partly because I have someone to light it with (it was his first Hanukkah ever). We lit the menorah four or five times. In addition, we went to two Hanukkah parties. My chorus sang a Christmas concert, and then a small group of us did some more Christmas songs last week. I saw the tree in Rockefeller Center and the windows across the street at Saks, which I hadn’t done in a long time. And I don’t know if my office’s secretaries have put up more Christmas decorations this year or if I’ve just been noticing them more.
Frankly, I don’t give a damn about the trumped-up “Merry Christmas” issue. Christmas long ago became a de facto secular holiday, as far as most of the country is concerned. I grew up wishing my family could celebrate Christmas like everyone else did, because it seemed so much fun. I felt I was missing out on something, and sometimes I felt a little sad. But I didn’t feel oppressed or offended. It’s one of those things you get used to when you grow up Jewish in America. In fact, whenever someone learns that my birthday is December 27 and says something about it being so close to Christmas, I respond that I’m Jewish.
Until recently, the whole Christmas thing struck me as a bit odd. You Christians spend a whole month getting ready for this holiday, putting up decorations and buying a tree and baking cookies and running around anxiously buying last-minute presents for your third cousin once removed and your mailman, and then it’s all over in one day. But this year I’ve realized that the season isn’t about Christmas Day — it’s about the season itself. It’s about taking a few weeks during the year to be festive and eat treats and go to parties and hear familiar songs and put up pretty lights to ward off the winter darkness. Instead of seeing the Christmas season as a buildup to something that can probably never quite match the anticipation, I’ve realized it’s more fun to enjoy the season as the season. Not as a journey to a destination, but as an end in itself.
And I don’t even celebrate Christmas.