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What am I Doing for Christmas?

What am I Doing for Christmas?

How to best answer this question.


While everyone else receives presents on Christmas, we Jews get questions.

People are curious about differences, and during this time of year not being a part of Christmas can definitely raise eyebrows. In high school, a friend’s father once asked me, “So Jeff, what do your people do on Christmas?” Apparently, this guy thought I was Moses. I felt like telling him the truth: like any good Jew, I eat Chinese food and go to the movies on Christmas. But I took the easy way out and just sort of mumbled that I don’t really do anything exciting.

Growing up, non-Jewish classmates looked at me with the same curiosity, like I was some sort of strange lab experiment, a boy who could never experience the joys of Christmas. I remember being asked, “I know both of your parents are Jewish, but you celebrate Christmas, right?” Yeah, absolutely, we celebrate Kwanzaa and Ramadan, too. We Jews just can’t say “no” to a good holiday.

I understand that there are inter-marriages where some Jews do in fact celebrate Chanukah and Christmas. There are also children with two Jewish parents who get a Christmas tree or "Chanukah bush." (Gevalt!) However, since I do not belong in either of these two categories, I had to explain that I do not celebrate Christmas in any shape or form. I don’t go Christmas caroling, I don’t sit on Santa’s lap, and I don’t put up lights… In short, I do not celebrate Christmas!

My older brother lives in the one safe haven from the Christmas barrage: Israel. He made aliyah years ago. My mother recently ran into a family friend who inquired about my brother and his life in Israel. “So is your son going to come home for Christmas?” she actually asked. Did someone spike the eggnog? Why would he fly halfway around the world for a holiday he has never celebrated?

I try to be patient with the annual round of Christmas questions I get. It just comes with the territory of being a Jew. I fight the urge to tell people that I’m taking part in high-stakes, big-money dreidel tournaments in Vegas or that I’m entering an all-you-can-eat latke tournament in Ohio. I don’t want to ruin anyone’s Christmas cheer, so I answer the questions posed to me. But the best answer is the two-word reply I gave to the woman who cuts my hair and asked me, “What are you doing for Christmas?”

“Being Jewish.”

December 17, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 55

(53) Russell, December 25, 2015 3:30 AM


I look forward to the time when I might volunteer to work the holiday as opposed to working for the time and a half. I would certainly trade xmax for thanksgiving.

(52) Miriamwcohen, December 23, 2014 8:58 PM

Jews need to know their own religion.

Amazing after so many years the same issues. Christmas and Chanukah have nothing to do with each other. And while I don't expect Christians to know our religion, it pains me that Jews do not know how to answer, and seem to be ashamed. We have no need to be embarrassed of our celebrations, ever.

(51) Anonymous, December 24, 2012 2:05 AM

"Being Jewish" is the perfect answer to everyone who asks me what I'm doing for Xmas. I'm sure many will not understand why I can't do both, but I will not stand there and explain. I will just smile kindly.

(50) Hanalah, December 23, 2012 10:27 PM

What do I do "for Xmas"? I celebrate the Holy Days & Sukkot!

Jews think that because Hanukah comes on the 25th of the month it must be the Jewish counterpart to Xmas. But the real counterpart to the December season comes in the autumn, when we invite family, friends, and strangers to our festive tables, when those who never go to services suddenly fill the shuls to bursting, when we wish each other a Good Year, and when we get out the greenery and, not a tree that we gather round, but a sukkah that surrounds US. This to us is THE time of year when GD IS NEAR. Instead of promoting huge menorahs at city hall (or elsewhere) in December, we need to promote beautifully decorated sukkot on the public lawns, and build our own personal sukkahs in the FRONT yard for all to admire. A Christian once asked, "If Rosh HaShanah is the Jewish Near Year, then when is the Jewish Xmas?" A silly question, of course. But it has a reply: the Jewish "Xmas" is Sukkot, when we are surrounded by the mitzvah--surrounded by the Shkhinah--surrounded by HaShem. Just because there are no special Christian festivals in October (except, heaven help us, Hallowe'en), we neglect to mention that there IS a HUGE Jewish holiness at the autumn equinox and we celebrate it BIGTIME. Just as the Xmas season lasts about a month or more, the High Holy Day/Sukkot season lasts nearly a month. Instead of getting, as a friend said, "all Jewed out" over so many weeks of festivities, let's glory in the fact that we, too, have a huge festive season, and let everybody know about it. Maybe some of them will even send us greeting cards during OUR festive time, instead of at their own festive time. Getting a Hanukah card (much less a Happy Holidays card or an Xmas card) is like someone sending me a Happy Birthday card on his own birthday and not on my own birthday.

Robert, December 28, 2012 4:23 PM

Well put

Well Put

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