Being Jewish, I do not celebrate Christmas with my family. That said, living in the sub-suburban Georgia, it is entirely impossible for me not to celebrate the Christmas holiday season in some form or fashion. Every organization has a Christmas party (very few of them are ‘holiday’ parties) and my children’s public schools are decorated unapologetically for Christmas.
I’m not opposed to this, per se. I’m all about the joy of the season, and I’ll celebrate anything that involves cookies and punch, and I’ll celebrate twice if there is the possibility I’ll get a gift. I think Christmas trees and lights are pretty and festive. I want to have a Merry Christmas, in the same way that I want all other 364 days of the year to be Merry. Merry = Good.
Somewhere in my house is a picture of my children with Santa, although to be fair, the random Santa we found at the Big Box Store looked vaguely alcoholic and a whole lot scrawnier than you’d want a jolly old elf to be. Instead of having a belly like a bowl fully of jelly he had a tummy like a sack full of rummy. Just saying.
I am glad that I don’t have the burden of providing these things for my own family. Even considering ketchup as a vegetable, I can barely get it together to feed my family in a way that keeps away scurvy and rickets. The thought of clearing out the regular tchotchkes and replacing them with holiday tchotchkes and buying, setting up, and decorating a tree makes me panic. I have no earthly idea how people pull off that kind of labor. And that Elf? What a cute clever idea! But for real? Half the time at my house the tooth fairy gets hung up in traffic or doesn’t think to have change for a twenty. There is no way the Elf could get into a different kind of mischief every night for a month, much less clean up the mischief from the day before. I’m still cleaning up my own mischief from last month, thank you very much. (No, seriously, as I write this in December, the centerpieces from my son’s Bar Mitzvah on October 25th still sit in various stages of being taken apart on my living room floor.) Lately, I’ve seen marketed the Mensch on the Bench, which is a Jewishy version of the Elf. No thanks. Cute, but too derivative, and too much pressure.
Santa doesn’t regularly come to our house, which isn’t so much of a problem now that my kids are older, but it was a bit of a problem when they were younger and their teachers were using Santa as a disciplinary tool. (“If you don’t stop, I’m going to tell Santa…..”) I didn’t want to undermine any method that would allow one grown person to keep control of twenty some-odd little ones, something I couldn’t manage to do even if I were given possession of a stun-ray gun, a pediatric cattle prod, and the voice of Mr. Rogers.
The first year my kids were aware of the problem, we were spending Christmas at the Lake, where there are no readily available shops nearby. Before we went to bed on Christmas Eve, my husband and I discussed whether or not we should do anything. We hunted around the house to see what we could find. In brown paper lunch sacks we placed a pack of Skittles and a dollar bill and wrote a note from Santa on the front saying that even though they didn’t celebrate Christmas, he didn’t want the Dufflets to feel totally ditched. Feeling left out of what everyone else is doing: that’s the hardest part of the season for Jewish kids.
They were THRILLED with the Skittles and dollar bills. I set the bar low when they were young. That was some great planning on my part, even if I had no other choices.
I struggle with this ‘typical mom’ stuff, and I stand in amazement of people who manage to make it happen. I’m so bad that the other day I asked my kids if they wanted to make cookies with me, and they both looked at me as if they expected me to follow this unexpected burst of regular mommitude with an announcement of a fatal illness.
So, my hats off to you, Christmas-tree putter uppers and elf-assistants. You have accomplished something I could never in a million years pull off.
Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side. Her latest book, “If You Did What I Told You…” is set to be released in the Fall of 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here.