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?! ♦