a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

When will December 25th just be a Day

Posted on: December 16, 2010

Even as a Christian I was very aware that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25th.  December 25th, the date of Christmas is very close to the pagan Yule Holiday, which is on December 21st, if I’m not mistaken.  The date of Christmas was chosen, I gather, in this close proximity to help the new Christians be more inclined to celebrate this new holiday while forgetting their old one.  I made this assertion as a young adult in high school to the dismay of many of the sisters who ran the school.  Only the infamous Ms L amused my assertions by banishing me to a portion of the room she called the Pagan Babies Section.  We weren’t pagans, necessarily, we were just questioning, intelligent shepherds, rather than sheep.

Still, part of the world actually believes with their whole heart that December 25th is Jesus’ birthday.  I call it stupidity, some people call it faith.  I really don’t care all that much because as a Jew I acknowledge that Jesus was born a Jew.  He died a Jew.  JESUS IS A JEW!  Now before you click away and think I’m one of those Jews that believe that Jesus was the messiah, let me just be clear.  I’m still waiting for the messiah, not idly, just waiting for the rebuilding of the Temple, for Elijah to let us know what’s up-you know, the world to come.

All joking aside, the fact of the matter is that December 25th isn’t yet just another day to me.  It’s still Christmas and this December 25th will be the first time I’m un-celebrating it.  I just e-mailed off an article I wrote for The Sisterhood titled, “Making December 25th Just a Day” in it I talked about what it means for me as a Jew-to-be to be getting very close to a holiday that no longer “belongs” to me.  I read it to Mirs and she thought that I sounded sad, that the article was sad.  It could be that I am sad, that it’s sad, or that I read it in a monotone voice that could be interpreted as sad.  Or, it could be all of the above.  Truth is, I’m sad but not about Christmas per se, just the stuff that goes along with it.  Family, Friends, Family. 

I’m missing my family right now and wishing that I could’ve gotten the time off work to be with them.  As much as I argued for my cause with Mirs that fateful afternoon in SoHo, and as much as I still defend my stance, I’m starting to understand what she meant.  Unfortunately, because only I am becoming a Jew, not my entire family, Christmas will always be a different thing for me versus what it is for them.  Last week when I had Shabbat dinner with my friends we were talking about what Christmas means.  The other Jew-to-be had a hard time last year, she’s been studying privately for five years.  She told us how she broke down into tears on her mother’s shoulder in her living room surrounded by all things Christmas.  It was the first time, she explained, that it didn’t feel right.  I don’t know what that feels like yet.

My apartment is decidedly un-Christmas.  There are no lights, no garland, no carols.  Just my mezuzah, my menorah, my hamsas and the many books on Judaism.  I’ve been reading Entering Jewish Prayer by Reuven Hammer on a daily basis and find the words, the reasoning behind the siddur, and the hows and whys of Jewish prayer very comforting-especially given the time of year.   I’m definitely sad that I will be alone on December 25th.  Most of the distractions I find when I find myself alone will be unavailable to me as not only the world but New York shuts down on December 25th.  It occurred to me that not only is it Christmas but it’s also Shabbat so all of the Jewish-owned stores that could be open will not be.  I’m sad that I will be here in my apartment with a feline that’s sort of an asshole rather than with my family.  I’m sad because I won’t be able to see the delight in my nephews eyes as they open the presents I’ve bought for them.  I’m sad because I’ll be alone.  I’m not sad or mourning Christmas, but what happens on Christmas-time with family and friends.

We’ve got 9 more days until this whole thing blows over.  How are you other converts and Jews-to-be doing?

16 Responses to "When will December 25th just be a Day"

Being that I live in the US and my family aren’t Jews I know that Christmas will never be just another day. It’s a major event in this country and a family affair. I live near my family so I will be with them even though it is Shabbat. I don’t mind. I will actually be going over early and staying all night so I won’t be doing anything I wouldn’t normally do. Being away from all your family must be difficult. I often think I want to move away from here but then again, I would miss them and I don’t have the sort of funds that would allow me to fly back home all the time.

I just wonder what happens when I become a Jew. I mean, yes it’s hard to get over Christmas with it thrown in our faces all the time. I know that I will be able to see my family, be with family, enjoy family time in the future but celebrating it in any way definitely seems inappropriate. I mean, clearly I can’t expect that my family will embrace my Judasim but celebrating Christmas with them in the way I’ve always celebrated also feels a bit off. I will say, I’m excited for Passover!

Does your family have a lot of Christmas traditions? We pretty much eat and socialize. It’s exactly like Thanksgiving. My husband’s family doesn’t do gifts anymore and nobody does them on my side except my siblings – which I’ve repeatedly asked not to do. This year my sister informed me i was too late. GRRR. I’m making it clear this is the last time. Period. I just wanted to get something for our parents which I may switch to another time, like Chanukah.

My family used to do Christmas really big; big house, big tree(s) big presents, big dinners. As the members of my extended family have either moved away or passed away they’ve gotten smaller. My parents have custody of my two nephews so I’m missing those new traditions and doing “christmas” all over again. I want to try to be home next year just to play Santa-since I’ll never be able to play Santa!

We don’t generally exchange gifts any longer, which I’m fine with. It’s mainly the missing my family part. I’m sending them cards, the boys books (I’m visiting in January so I’ll bring them toys then) and I’m still considering bringing them Anita Diament’s Choosing a Jewish Life

Pesach makes me feel dizzy. All that cleaning, cleaning and more cleaning. Changing our menu all around without annoying the husband, making sure he doesn’t use the wrong dishes, open the wrong cabinets. I didn’t do any of that last Pesach but this year it’ll have to be done. I think I’m tired just thinking about it, hehe. I’m sure I’ll find it enjoyable when I have kids and grandkids who come home to visit 🙂

Wow, you just made me nervous! ha! I’m excited about the actual dinner part the cleaning and removing of leven products part I haven’t actually thought about…does that include my cat’s food???

Yes, it includes pet food. You can buy special chametz free food for small animals but I don’t know about cats. I’m not sure what is in cat food anyway.

That makes me nervous. I looked up preparations and now, I’m dizzy!

As a convert-to-be I ordered myself a siddur for xmas. I know that’s ironic, but I plan to get over xmas one baby step at a time. 🙂

I want a siddur really badly! I was actually just thinking that I would buy myself one as well after I’m finished reading this book on Jewish Prayer. Everytime I’m at Shabbat service I want to just read through the whole thing.

I agree that it’s definitely best to do it one step and a time and not to expect to much out of myself…there could be slip ups. I think it’s important to grieve, as odd as that sounds.

I’m still debating on the Siddur. I think I might go with the “Koren Sacks” and the “Or Hadash: A Commentary on Siddur Sim Shalom for Weekdays” by Reuven Hammer. I don’t know but I’d like to decide soon.

Thanks for this post…I too have been dealing with some odd feelings. I converted 3 years ago and due to some family issues, a 20 something daughter who “lost”christmas when I converted, I havn’t been able to have a totaly non christmas/christmas until this year. (the daughter has moved to the west coast post college graduation)
What i understand about my feeling is the memory issue…I have strong memories form childhood and from when my daughter was a child associated with this christian holiday.
I love being jewish, it fits my soul, but the oddness at this time of year has yet to go away.
I hope with time and with new Jewish memories…I can find ease

Congratulations on your conversion-3 years! That’s incredible. I’m actually doing okay today. I haven’t felt much of anything really. I ordered some Chinese food, watched some Netflix and am now hanging out with some friends. Overall, I’m doing well 🙂 I think that it’s some what helpful that I am alone. Surprising, really. I feel like if I were home or celebrating in a “Christmasy” way with a big dinner, presents, etc. it would be a little bit more difficult.

I just read this post and your Christmas as a Jew to Be. I converted nearly 13 years ago and ‘gave up’ Christmas about 8 years ago. For me, it faded out over time, being replaced with so many other wonderful traditions and family rituals. But I would be lying if I didn’t say that there wasn’t a mourning period, of sorts. The music, the tree, the smell of the tree. I miss it all much less now, for sure. Just give yourself time and space to miss it, and then next year for Sukkot, you can decorate your heart out. (I have found that stringing lights on my sukkah is terribly satisfying, and fills the ‘tree’ void very nicely.)

Hi Apryl, Thanks so much for writing to me. Can I string lights in my apartment for Sukkot?? That’s the draw back to living in NYC apartments, no space for Sukkah!

what nice comments!…I hope everyone had a lovely day…
I went to services last night and this morning then drove to my parents house 2 hours away. I feel it was a good compromise….
….now Sukkah I do all the way….. twinkle lights…fake fruit and grape vines, mums etc…and I have I think the world’s smallest sukkha…

as far as NYC there are a lot of very fun community sukkhas there…maybe you could help out with the decorating?….

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