Today is the final day of Chanukah while throughout the land, holiday spirits are peaking. This wildly enthusiastic holiday excitement is something I’ve heard about my whole life, but never fully experienced.

I’m Jewish. Christmas is a holiday which I don’t totally understand. I know for some Jewish families, the High Holidays — Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur — as well as the festival of Passover are very big deals. Households are cleaned, there’s lots of cooking and families gather for traditional meals and ritual celebrations. In many homes, gifts are exchanged too.

Table set for Passover Seder

I have a very small family, so for us, those holidays were nothing more than a small dinner party with a theme.

Even with my observant friends, Jewish holidays just don’t rise to the level of obsession and frenzy that Christmas does for my gentile friends. We don’t have to buy gifts for every friend and every family member. We don’t spend huge amounts of time buying and putting up decorations in every room in the house We don’t have anything like the Xmas tree, lovingly chosen and decorated, to act as the centerpiece of the holiday.

My experience of the Christmas season is through my Christian friends and family members (my second husband is a Protestant-ish). Most of them complain for weeks about their exhaustion and stress from endless shopping, decorating, wrapping gifts, planning family gatherings, sending out cards, going to parties and often cooking for large numbers of people.

That’s on top of the out-of-town family who are usually coming to visit over the holidays. That can be wonderful, but it involves another layer of work, planning and often additional stress.

I’m told that the actual Christmas eve and day festivities make all the blood, sweat and tears worthwhile. The few that I’ve experienced seem rather anti-climactic after the rush everyone gets from opening presents. However, for families who may only be together just this once during the year, it must be a very special and cherished time.

Looking at Christmas from the outside, it feels like putting on a play. Lots of time and energy is spent putting the show together. Then there’s the euphoria of performing in front of the audience. After everything is cleaned up and put away, there’s a warm afterglow.

Being Jewish, I miss out on a big, two-month-long cultural phenomenon. Everywhere I go there are Christmas decorations, Christmas foods and Christmas music. It’s all enjoyable, but it doesn’t do for me what it must do for people who really get into the holidays. I wish I could experience the orgy of merriment and excitement that the holiday spirit imparts. It looks like a lot of fun.

But I’ll have to settle for looking in with my nose pressed against the window. At least I don’t need a long spa vacation after the holidays are over.


  1. One of the fun experiences of living in Israel was discovering Jewish holidays as exhausting and expensive as Christmas — and TWO of them (Passover and Sukkot). AND you get a whole week off from work which is kind of terrific. That’s why nothing gets done in the fall or spring. Everyone just looks at each other and says “After the holidays” because nothing gets done during the holidays 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Israeli holidays sound like fun! But I’m kind of glad I don’t have to go throught the decorating and gift buying and meal prep that goes into major holidays. I’ve gotten older and lazier. I’ll take my eight nights of lighting candles thank you.


  2. Christmas – like anything – is what we make it. To me it’s a Spiritual event – of sharing – family and friends. I’m not a Christian, but I see It as a Season of Love and Goodwill. I do buy some gifts, but the most important is the Christmas Dinner with Family and Friends.

    Anyway … Have a Great Christmas!

    God Bless Us – Everyone !!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Unfortunately, nothing about the Xmas frenzy in America is spiritual or even religious. I never ‘did’ Xmas in part, because I felt it was disrespectful to just mimic someone else’s important and supposedly religious holiday. I have no problem with the element of family and friends connecting at the holidays. But does it have to be ensconced in layers of commercialism? I’m told that the Xmas buying spree actually keeps the American economy afloat. If we stopped the craziness and banned Xmas gifts, there would be mass closings of businesses. That’s the sad part.


      1. I just needed to marry someone not Jewish. I couldn’t celebrate the holiday on my own — that seemed a bit creepy. But Jeff was non-denominationally not Jewish. Actually, no one in his family knew what they were, but they were vaguely protestant. Because they weren’t something else. But they WERE very big on Christmas.

        When Owen was a kid, it was fun and we had parties and people and food, but I have neither the energy or finances for a Big Christmas these days. Anyway, it isn’t REALLY Christmas. All the tree and decorating is way pre Christian. We just tacked it on to make the holiday feel like they felt before Christians snagged it for themselves.

        So have a very cool Yule and think of the whole thing as welcoming the end of the winter darkness and greeting the sun and longer days. That works for me.


      2. Although I work at Home Depot I don’t participate in the Christmas shopping “Frenzy”. And I note that many are backing off on it. There is a semblance of sanity creeping in. I’ve met some people that do NO gift giving at all – and have an agreement among their to do likewise.


  3. True, there’s a lot of commercial hype with Christmas but like jcalberta says, it’s what you make of it. We no longer gift everyone in the family. It’s just too expensive and nobody needs all that stuff so we draw names. For us, on Christmas Eve, there is a special family meal of tourtière then midnight mass. Then Christmas day we roast the turkey and wait for the rest of the family to arrive. It’s all about family gathering and sharing our lives.


    1. It sounds like you do it the way it should be done. You enjoy the spirit of the holiday and the love of friends and family, without the commercialism and stress. Have a beautiful Xmas with your family!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Christmas meant the most to me when I lived in China, away from the cultural and familial expectations. Since it’s been a long time since I’ve been a “normal” Christian, I see it in a more symbolic sense that’s in harmony with Chanukah with baby Jesus representing the return of light to the world. Or so I see it.

    I don’t really decorate. I even think the trade deficit with China could be fixed if NO American decorated for ANY holiday for a year. 😉

    Christmas when I was a little kid was a mixed bag. I like buying presents for people, but I don’t have and don’t spend a lot of money. I make my own Christmas cards which is my favorite part — and I like receiving them. I think they’re wonderful. Otherwise, I can really take it or leave it and I think it last too long now. When I was a kid, we put two weeks into it. Now it starts in October.


    1. The October start to Xmas is to prime the economy! You’re right about the deficit with China – it could be fixed by outlawing tacky decorations Made In China! It must have been interesting celebrating Christmas in China.

      Liked by 1 person

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