It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas…and I love it! Even though I’m Jewish and don’t celebrate the holiday, I enjoy looking at the beautiful Christmas lights and decorations throughout our metropolitan area.
When my son was a toddler, we would drive slowly by each house, sometimes even walking around the outside of the house if there were a lot of decorations. We frequented a couple of houses so much that we even exchanged emails and phone numbers with the owners!
Around the corner is a neighborhood lined with Christmas trees in every yard, courtesy of one neighbor who wants to bring a little cheer to his neighborhood. My 9-year-old son lovingly refers to it as the “Army of Trees.” As we drive down the street towards the owners’ house, we hear holiday music playing from one of the local radio stations. My son squeals with excitement, begging me to turn up the volume on our car radio so we can hear it in stereo.
And for the past four years on December 23, we have gathered at this house for a neighborhood Christmas celebration. When they wish us a “Merry Christmas,” I am beyond letting them know that we don’t celebrate Christmas, but that we enjoy the lights, decorations, and camaraderie…oh, and their free refreshments.
At another house a mile away, the decorations, lights, and music there don’t hold a candle to the barn animals who frolic inside a fenced off area. They don’t need to worry about the cold weather, as we don’t get snow or extremely cold temperatures.
Cows, calves, and goats greet their adoring public, who are free to carefully pet these domesticated animals and take photos. Everyone is so friendly and welcoming, it is like we are a part of the family. In fact, the owner even gave those of us on their mailing list a chance to name the newborn calf.
Is it a wonder why I enjoy the Christmas spirit?
It’s hard to ignore Christmas in America when a majority celebrates it, Christian or not. It’s even more difficult to avoid sharing in the merriment of music, decorations, and lights.
When I was younger, only occasionally did we ride around looking at holiday lights, not so much because my dad didn’t want to endorse Christmas, but because he didn’t want to waste the gas. And if I saw Santa at a department store, I would tell him what I wanted for the holidays, making it clear that I don’t celebrate Christmas. I always walked away with a coloring book and candy cane, my Jewish traditions still intact.
As I grew older and came to realize that Santa wasn’t real, and neither was Hanukkah Harry (or, as we were told, the “Jewish Santa”), I still appreciated the beautiful decorations and lights.
My son, perhaps more savvy than I was at his age, has known for a while that Santa is not real, but he still enjoys the Christmas festivities. I am all right with that, as long as it isn’t in our house.
And it hasn’t made my son any less Jewish, nor has he had any desire to ditch Hanukkah and celebrate Christmas instead, especially since he receives gifts over several days.
So as Christmas approaches, I am gearing up for another long holiday season and lots of driving until a few weeks beyond December 25.
And by the third week, when I start to feel burned out from seeing so many bright lights and decorations, and a headache looms from hearing too much holiday music to the point that I want to scream, we will finally return to our quiet home that’s simply adorned with fall and Hanukkah decorations.
And even though I may not celebrate it, I do know one thing…I’ll be home for Christmas.