Sunday, December 08, 2013


Spoiler alert: I've got some choice words for Santa.

Yesterday morning, we awoke to a dusting of snow. Joyfully gazing out the window, Wyatt said, "It looks so Christmasy! I wonder why."

I almost said, " Santa probably prefers to land his sleigh on snow," but I stopped myself. As age-appropriate as that comment would have been, I'm uncomfortable with the lie buried in it. Do I lack whimsy? Was that how I was raised?

As a Jewish child (emphasis on the ish), I celebrated Christmas without the Christ (or the mas for that matter), just because opening presents on Christmas morning was a nice family tradition. Speaking post childhood to my goyum friends about the trauma of discovering Santa's a myth, I realize I never held that belief. As a Jew, I can't say I ever felt left out around Christmas, perhaps because I was surrounded by plenty of other Jersey Jews, perhaps because Hanukkah filled the void. That said, for all I knew, Hanukkah was a celebration of Han Solo (or, as some of My People spell it, Chan Solo.) Yes, we lit the candles every year, even after setting the macrame plant hanger on fire (the 70s was a particularly flammable decade). But, gradually, over the course of my childhood, Hanukkah gift giving devolved from a few presents on the eight nights; to money during the eight nights; to one, featured present on Christmas morning (wrapped in distinguishing menorah or dreidel paper). Thanks, Mom and Dad for the Polaroid One Step and 8-track player. That's another thing I appreciate about Hanukkah gift giving -- I knew exactly where my gifts were coming from. While I appreciate that Wyatt embraces his half-Jewyism like it's a super power, recounting to him my own checkered history with the December holiday season left a bad taste in my mouth. Without explicitly saying my parents footed the bill, I also didn't want to highlight the reindeer in the room and say Santa doesn't visit Jews.

And it just keeps getting harder. Now there is the ingeniously insidious Elf on the Shelf . I appreciate the fact that our elf (Artie) fills in the plot hole of Santa's omnipotence by reporting back to the North Pole every day on behavior and wish lists, but that doesn't change the fact that we're harboring a snitch for some Nordic fart who enjoys emotionally blackmailing children in exchange for toys. Never mind that the kids can't touch the elf, lest they rob him of his "Christmas Magic" or that the damn elf relies on enabling parents to remember to move him each night when he's "at the North Pole". While I'm happy to play along for the look on my kids' faces when Artie lands himself in an especially interesting place or position, it can be difficult to keep up the charade.

The brother of a friend has come up with a Hanukkah alternative to the Elf, which I especially appreciate because it seems designed to pit siblings against one another as they alternate hiding and finding the Maccabee (and thereby take the pressure off parents) and keeps the miracles to a minimum.

Yes, I'm a stick in the mud. Over the course of his life, Wyatt has already believed he's a wizard and a ninja (thanks, Harry Potter and Ninjago, respectively). Over the course of my life, my richest fantasy has probably been believing that Candle in the Wind is really about how I could have saved Marilyn Monroe with kindness and respect (never mind that she died eight years before I was born).

Is this where growing up a Credit-Where-Credit's-Due Jew and not discovering Gabrielle Garcia Marquez until later in life has taken it's toll on me?

As much as I see the human brain as an unknowable mystery (as somewhat magical); as much as there is an inkling of hope that if neurons can fire at light speed could also mean they can miraculously heal as quickly, the sceptic in me won't allow a true belief in such a gift (even if it could fit in the sleigh). Ho, ho, hum.


  1. Wow, thanks Downer McDownstein. Love, Jamie

  2. I do love you, Ken. I appreciate the difficulty you share of being a Christmas celebrating Jewish person. I have my own issues with Christmas and Santa and can relate to yours. That said, our kids are almost out of the "believing" stage and then things will be better.