As I’ve written about here before, my ex converted to Judaism before we got married and his mother converted to Judaism after we got married. My ex’s father still celebrates Christmas and our sons have visited him and his wife every Christmas of their lives. This Christmas experience has, for them, not been a religious one, but rather a festive meal not unlike Thanksgiving; a pretty tree decorated with, among other things, Star Trek ornaments, and more gifts than they get for Hanukkah.
It is very clear to my sons that we don’t celebrate Christmas and that we honor their grandparents who do celebrate Christmas by visiting them on December 25th.
I respect Christmas in all of its forms of celebration and I do not begrudge people celebrating Christmas. Here’s why I’m not bummed out that I don’t.
1. It’s Not My Holiday
I know that there are Jews who celebrate Christmas either in an “American way” or as part of an interfaith relationship, but I was raised with the very simple explanation from my parents that it’s just not our holiday. I don’t feel any more upset about not celebrating Christmas than I do about not celebrating Easter or Diwali or Boxing Day. The way I explain it to my boys is the same way my parents explained it to me: it’s not our holiday.
2. I Have Other Holidays
I had a friend in elementary school who was a practicing Jehovah’s Witness. Her family did not celebrate holidays. They didn’t even celebrate birthdays. While I have respect for Jehovah’s Witnesses, I cannot imagine not celebrating holidays, especially all of the cool ones I celebrate as a Jew. If I didn’t celebrate anything and then had to go without Christmas, I’d be pretty bummed out–but the Jewish calendar is chock full of holidays with ritual foods, singing, dancing, religious and spiritual connection, environmental awareness, profundity, and awesomeness. I like the traditions associated with Jewish holidays and they really fill me up celebration-wise.
3. Winter Is Still Cool
Even though I don’t celebrate Christmas, I enjoy the cold weather and the pretty decorated trees I get to see in just about every store and mall. I like looking at people’s Christmas lights and I dig the overall “Merry Christmas” vibe. I can still enjoy those things even if I personally do not celebrate Christmas.
Again, I don’t begrudge people’s Christmas celebrations. I am grateful that my parents instilled in me a healthy appreciation for our family as a non-Christmas-celebrating one without them denigrating Jews who chose differently. I hope that my sons will continue to have positive experiences with their grandfather and Christmas in his home. To all of you celebrating, Merry Christmas, and to all of you not celebrating, Happy Holidays.