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?”