Hazel Loves Christmas

Bad puns we thought of as alternate titles: “Oy to the World” and “Do You Schmear What I Schmear?”

Collage by Minna

Ever since I was young, I have been Jewish. I went to a Jewish preschool, was the star of my Hebrew-school classes, and had a kickass Bat Mitzvah. But I don’t actually believe in God. Science is, technically, my religion. And yet, I LOVE CHRISTMAS. How does this make sense? Why would an atheist Jew love Jesus’s birthday so much?!

As a Jew (I think I’m gonna start every sentence in the rest of this piece that way—don’t worry, I won’t…probably), I didn’t grow up with Santa Claus or a Christmas tree. But one day my mom, who was raised Christian and converted to Judaism before marrying my Jewish dad, was like, “I want some Christmas up in here!” and the tree came into our living room, along with the music and the movies and the cookies, OH MY! Christmas was this intoxicating holiday and unlike anything I had personally experienced (as a Jew). Judaism has its fun and joyous holidays (Passover! Hannukah!), but during those holidays I was never being constantly overwhelmed with LIGHTS and MUSIC and PEPPERMINT-FLAVORED TREATS! I embraced this new holiday. Once I started celebrating Christmas, you’d have thought I’d been doing it since the day I was born.

Some people might be offended regarding how I, AS A JEW, became so in love with this most un-Jewish of holidays. Yes, I am a sucker for decorative treats and the colors green and red. Not to mention the fact that Christmas music is so goddamn catchy! How could anyone not sing along to all of the infectious pop songs on the radio during the holiday season? I am attracted to the consumerist side of Christmas as well as the twinkling lights and the overall spirit of whimsy. All of this, of course, has literally nothing to do with Jesus Christ. Isn’t Christmas about Jesus?

Well, not to me. Excuse me if I’m about to go totally Hallmark on all of you, but to me Christmas is a holiday of giving and love. Woah, that sounded super cheesy, but it’s true! The Christmases I’ve had were magical for the reasons listed above (mmm, peppermints), but they were also special because I was surrounded by my family. I spent those holidays with my five Christian-raised cousins who flew across the country to drink hot cocoa and open presents with me. We go sledding and ice-skating and get stuck in my ice-covered driveway for 30 minutes or so! Doesn’t that sound great? Trust me, it’s great. Christmas is a sort of homecoming for my relatives and I bet many other people, no matter what religion or nonreligion they are, would say the same.

And so, I’m gonna lay down some rules: (1) Anybody who loves their family can celebrate Christmas! (2) Anybody who loves giving presents and decorating the house with glitter and lights can celebrate Christmas! (3) If you love ham you can celebrate Christmas! You got it? I don’t mean to offend those who celebrate Christmas as a strictly religious holiday. I am glad that you celebrate it that way, believers—someone has to represent for faith and tradition, and who could do it better than you? It’s just that Christmas can be interpreted in so many different ways. Even I, with a Christmasless past and a nonbelieving mindset, have found something comforting in Christmas, and I will never stop celebrating it. Seriously, how could I, as a Jew, give up all of those peppermint treats?! ♦


  • pudding December 8th, 2011 7:06 PM

    I love this so much.

  • FashionHauties December 8th, 2011 7:07 PM

    This is really interesting! I can’t really relate, but, it was interesting! :)

  • Marguerite December 8th, 2011 7:23 PM


  • Annie December 8th, 2011 7:27 PM

    As an atheist with a Catholic mom and Jewish dad, I wholeheartedly agree with this. Christmas is rad, no matter what you believe in.

  • Nomi December 8th, 2011 7:30 PM

    I’m Jewish and every year I get so pumped for christmas.
    Then it comes and nothing happens. Because I’m Jewish.

  • Maddy December 8th, 2011 7:30 PM

    So I’m also a super-Jew, and Hanukkah’s fun but as I tell my friends, we have to piggyback on Christmas cheer. Last year I wanted to try this “christmas” dealio so I made a mini tree which looks exactly like the Charlie Brown tree! Hey can I send you guys a picture?

    • Anaheed December 8th, 2011 9:49 PM

      Yes, please!

    • Tavi December 8th, 2011 10:13 PM

      please do! also, as a fellow jew, i totally don’t buy the whole “hanukkah miracle” thing. i feel like we made up hanukkah because we were jealous about christmas. christmas is so much more enticing though, all the music, plus it’s about a birth, while hanukkah is about a war victory, which is totally less fun to celebrate!

  • Dylan December 8th, 2011 7:40 PM

    peppermint TREATZZZZZZ

  • Skatapus December 8th, 2011 7:41 PM

    Haha this is so perfect! I, as another christmas celebrating-atheist-jew, wholeheartedly agree! :D

  • CariStereo December 8th, 2011 7:55 PM

    This was so cute to read. I love it.

    Growing up I loved Christmas (still do), but also thought it was so cool that my Jewish friends had Hannukah, where they’d get a present every day for eight days. What! So cool! And everything is blue and silver, which is so pretty! And my Jewish friends all seemed to want a Christmas tree and a Santa Claus.

    I like that everyone can find something to love, and to adopt, for the holidays. Essentially those special times are for appreciating your blessings, your family, and sharing good times. Celebrate away!

  • LermWorm December 8th, 2011 8:08 PM

    As someone who grew up with a Jewish dad and a Lutheran mom, I somewhat relate and completely agree!

  • Fortune_Goddess December 8th, 2011 8:12 PM

    omg. u read my mind. i am u. this is creepy aah!

  • moonchild December 8th, 2011 8:17 PM

    I’m actually Bhuddist…

    I go to the monastery and everything. BUT I CELEBRATE X-MAS TOOO!!!


  • Tavi December 8th, 2011 8:31 PM

    as a WOMAN in the jewish community (YEAH, I DID THAT TORAH PORTION), i feel the same way! i love this one, hazel.

    i can get away with it a lil though because my mom is norwegian (though she converted to judaism) and we do JUL

  • Hunnoh December 8th, 2011 8:34 PM

    I can totally relate with this. I’ve grown up with Hanukkah and Christmas in two different homes. I’m an atheist, but I’m feeling the need to choose a religion. I’ve been reading books about Judaism (given to me by my grandmother who converted at marriage) and they say that it’s not cool to celebrate Christmas. But it’s just a part of my childhood. Thanks for posting, this makes me feel better :o)

  • Mags December 8th, 2011 8:52 PM

    I don’t believe in God or Jesus either, but Christmas is too much fun to be ignored. Gingerbread man cookies!!!

  • marimba_girl December 8th, 2011 9:31 PM

    Christmas has turned into a consumer holiday, but I’m totes ok with it! Besides, as a pagan I feel like I get the best of both worlds, a Yule tree (and the increasing daylight hours of course!) and Yule themed presents, AND a Christmas tree and Christmas presents from my Christian family and friends. For me it is a spiritual time of year, but not exactly in the same way as my Jewish and Christian friends. I sort of compartmentalize my religious pagan side and my “Yay new books for Christmas!” side.

    If that makes any sense. Anyway have a Happy Winter Solstice everyone!!!

  • Ruby B. December 8th, 2011 9:36 PM

    I love this and I can totally relate to loving Christmas as an atheist Jew!

    I don’t celebrate Christmas at home (as a Jew!) but I wish I did. I love the idea of a Christmas tree, and the warm red and green color schemes of the store windows, and pretty twinkly lights, and music!
    I mean, the only reason people give presents on Hannukah and make it a big holiday (it’s really not) is because of Christmas, so why not embrace some of the other non-religious aspects of it, too?

    Hazel, as a Christmas/Hannukah present, please accept this punctuation-art Christmas tree and menorah.

    / \
    / \

    ( |
    _ |_

  • emilyelizabeth December 8th, 2011 10:58 PM

    as an atheist who has always celebrated christmas sans religion, i wholeheartedly agree with this! lights! peppermints! presents!

    and although i have never been jewish, i have had many jewish friends who i’ve joined for Hanukkah celebrations and so i’ve started a tradition for myself and my family where i make latkes on christmas!

  • fizzingwhizbees December 8th, 2011 11:25 PM

    I’m an atheist with a Christian mom and a Jewish dad.

    And I Freaking. Love. Christmas.

  • Hunter December 9th, 2011 12:46 AM

    haha i liked this
    yo hazel i totally thought you were a latina princess

  • KayKay December 9th, 2011 1:05 AM

    I love this post! It shows that no matter what religion you come from, there’s always something magical to enjoy about a holiday that centers around giving and love!
    My mother is Catholic, my father is Protestant; personally, I’m more of an atheist. But I still love Christmas <3

  • mangachic December 9th, 2011 3:10 AM

    I’m an atheist Jew who just moved to Israel and who keeps on complaining about the lack of decorated trees, snow, lights and catchy songs. And fireplaces and hot cocoa and ice skating. And chubby people in hats who promise you everything you want. And candycanes. Yup, the Hallmark version of Christmas.
    So I’m doing a (secular) Christmas party for the Jews in a month….any ideas???????????
    I’m planning on cutting out snowflakes, playing Elf (which is one of the best movies ever made) and putting on all the music but I haven’t gotten past that.
    And does anone think it’s ridiculous that the adaptation of Christmas for JEws is a ‘Hannukah bush?’

    • giov December 9th, 2011 3:32 AM

      I am from Italy where being Jewish is rare and you actually feel like part of a minority in a country where the 99 per cent of people are catholic (hey, the pope lives here!). so as an Italian Jewish Agnostic Woman I grew up doing christmas with my dad’s catholic mom and hannuka with my other grandparents, and I’m grateful for that. Now my grandparents are dead so I just spend Christmas day avoiding the world and it’s suddenly December 26th. One day I’ll have my own family I guess, and we’ll see what we’ll decide to celebrate, but for now it’s ok not to celebrate much at all and just spend some time with my family that I see twice a year because I study abroad.

  • Steve Buscemi December 9th, 2011 5:57 AM

    You are so right – Christmas is the bomb! Even here, in the Muslim country I live in, there are advertisements for HALAL Turkeys, specially for Christmas.

  • Toilets December 9th, 2011 1:22 PM

    I’m an ex-Catholic atheist and I wish I could get excited about Christmas :(

    I’ve got no specific problem with either the religious or secular Christmas, and I wish I could enjoy it, but something about it just makes me feel uneasy and I end up avoiding having anything to do with it.

  • ladyjenna December 9th, 2011 10:35 PM

    HI FIVE to the other awesome jewish women who don’t feel guilty belting out christmas carols!

  • Chandler December 10th, 2011 4:16 AM

    I love Christmas but I am also Jewish and love being Jewish. I feel like religion really segregates people and makes rules that people who celebrate Christmas can’t celebrate Hanukkah and people who celebrate Hanukkah can’t celebrate Christmas. But, this is wrong. I love Christmas and it is exciting and fun, but I don’t like how this post is showing Hanukkah as a ‘not that fun holiday’ when, in all honesty, it can be a fun holiday. And it seems like this post is showing that the holiday Hanukkah shouldn’t be a holiday…and thats not true.

    xoxo Chandler

  • Filia-Zissy December 10th, 2011 10:57 AM

    I consider myself as being a witch – I celebrate Samhain and Yule and the other six holidays. But I’m born in a christian society and though my parents are both antheist, we celebrate christmas. For me too it’s a holiday of love and giving and I really like the decoration, the music and just the feeling.

    Merry Christmas everyone.

  • Unibrowsmith December 10th, 2011 6:43 PM

    Love This!! I was raised “christian” but we rarely (live a few times when I was 6) went to church and never talked about Jesus. Now we’re pretty much all atheist/agnostic but it doesn’t stop me from loving Christmas. I love fresh smelling Christmas trees and telling my friends and family how much i love them and buying/making everybody the perfect gift!! I listen to Christmas music non-stop after Thanksgiving and scope out the best neighborhoods to look at Christmas lights. Seriously, what’s not to love???

  • PoisonIvy December 11th, 2011 10:04 AM

    True that girl. Party on.

  • tove December 11th, 2011 2:56 PM

    it’ll sound weird, but since last time I wrote christmas-themed story about an atheist who LOOOVES christmas and celebrates it with her atheist family, I feel like I can say: “I know what you feel”. so, yeah, I know what you feel!

  • alix December 12th, 2011 5:33 PM

    I can really relate to this. Technically I’m a a catholic but I dont particularly agree with most of it, I do belive in god though. But Christmas, to me, is just “the season to be jolly”!