in which my annual noncelebration of christmas causes my jewish cultural roots to reappear, a tiny bit

Two years ago, wmtc's annual "i hate christmas" post declared: "i hate christmas is slightly less hateful this year".

Working in the library, as opposed to an office environment, I found getting through the holiday season much less trying.

No more co-workers - at their computers, able to talk while they work - going on (and on and on and on...) about what they are buying for whom, reciting their shopping lists, a mind-numbing litany of consumption. My co-workers now are too busy, and several magnitudes less self-absorbed, to inflict that on anyone.

And it wasn't just the absence of a negative. Colleagues described holiday celebrations that had nothing to do with shopping. Traditions that are meaningful and truly joyous: what a concept!

This year several of my library colleagues, unbeknownst to them, gave me another reason to hate Christmas less: they wished me a Happy Hanukkah. And something strange happened: I felt my Jewishness a bit more.

When one co-worker first inquired about my Hanukkah (in the context of an unrelated email discussion), I said I didn't know when it started, and made a joke about being a "bad Jew". Super-sensitive soul that she is, she apologized and hoped she wished me no offense. Far from it! In fact, I was touched and impressed that she remembered that (a) I don't celebrate Christmas, and (b) I am Jewish. (I told her this, of course.)

Then another, then several, colleagues wished me a Happy Hanukkah. Some of those celebrate Christmas, others do not. I was really touched that they would remember. It's not like I talk about being Jewish, or even take time off for the High Holidays in the fall. One colleague asked me about Hanukkah, what it means, what the traditions are, just as I have done with others about Diwali and Eid.

And you know what? I played along. I accepted their Hanukkah wishes with thanks. I talked about the holiday. And... I felt Jewish.

I gave up celebrating Jewish holidays a long time ago, finding it incompatible with my atheism. Said atheism is hardcore, and in no danger of dissolution. But now I wonder if, like many secular Jews, I might enjoy some of it again.

So this year, do I hate Christmas? Let's see. Streaming-only TV and movies means no constant barrage of advertising. Library workplace means not forced listening to My Story of Pointless Consumption, plus unexpected exposure to genuine holiday cheer and goodwill. It's led to a slight re-emergence of my cultural roots. Plus I get two days off with pay. (When you're freelancing, no one pays you for holidays.)

Everything on this list still applies. But it's all a lot easier to bear.


DavidHeap said...

My (somewhat eclectic) Anglican Marxist mum used to light a menorah most years for Hanukkah, because she sincerely believed in honouring the Judaic roots of her Xtianity, and also celebrated the Maccabbee story as an example of anti-imperial resistance. She was also very fond of latkes... at any time of year (so the season was a good excuse).

laura k said...


Our synagogue also interpreted the Maccabbees that way, although I don't think they would have used the word imperialist. And latkes... mmmmthat's a tradition I should revive.

Zenslinger said...

Take what ypu like and leave the rest. That's what religious people do anyway, why shouldn't atheists?

laura k said...

You know, Zen, you're right. Everyone does that - even fundamentalists!

Amy said...

I wrote a long comment before, but the/ bottom line is----find whatever meaning you can. You don't need to believe in anything to enjoy some aspects of holidays, be they Jewish or not. Happy last night of Hanukkah!

laura k said...

I'm sorry I missed the long comment! (Stupid Blogger-iPhone spat!) But thanks, yeah, you're right.

I used to be a real all-or-nothing thinker, always falling into that trap. I gave up religion, so in my mind, that meant I had to give up all of it - even parts that I loved and would miss! This could be another step in getting away from that habit of painting myself into a corner.

Thanks Amy. :)