‘Oh, you poor thing,’ is what most people say when I tell them I don’t celebrate Christmas.
You see I’m Jewish – not just a cultural bagel-eating Jew, but a synagogue-attending (although not as much as I really should) Jew – so for me, Christmas isn’t really a ‘thing.’ I’ve never had a Christmas tree. I’ve hardly ever opened a present on Christmas Day (unless it’s happened to fall within the Jewish present-giving holiday Chanukkah – an eight-day long festival which also takes place in December). And I’ve never gone carolling… although tbf, neither have most of my Christian mates.
So does that mean that I hate the whole Christmas period? That exchanging gifts in December makes me feel deeply uncomfortable? That I feel mortally offended when someone wishes me a ‘Merry Christmas’? Of course not. I may be Jewish, but I’m also British, so while I might not enjoy the full, traditional Christmas experience, it’s almost impossible for me to avoid getting into the festive sprit altogether. And you know what? I wouldn’t want to.
Mince pies, Christmas movies (the cheesier the better IMO) and Christmas parties fill me with as much joy (or, when it comes to work parties, horror) as the next person. And I also have a pretty banging line in Christmas jumpers (three of which – yes, I have more than three – I picked up at a Jewish charity shop). Even at my parent’s house – an otherwise Christmas-free zone – the Christmas spirit sneaks in, in the form of food. We might not have a stack of presents under an elaborately decorated tree, but jam-filled lebkuchen (traditional German Christmas biscuits), H U G E boxes of chocolates and nuts in shells (which inevitably, no one can actually crack), fill the house. In fact, we even have a traditional roast turkey dinner complete with champagne and crackers on Christmas Day, and my mum bakes her own Christmas cake.
But while we may subscribe to a traditional Christmas diet, that’s where my Christmas Day activities stop. While for most people, Christmas Day is filled with joy and excitement, I tend to find the whole thing quite boring. You see, because we don’t really celebrate Christmas, I spend the day with just my immediate family (my mum, dad and two younger sisters).
So while there are inevitably some pretty epic arguments (as per Crimbo tradition), there’s none of the excitement of seeing some long-lost drunken uncle do his annual eggnog-fuelled Elvis impression. Add to that the fact that there’s never anything on TV (but seriously, HOW is there never anything decent on TV? No, really?), and that even if I do, somehow, manage to summon up the energy to actually leave the house, there’s nothing to do because nothing’s actually open. The whole day just tends to drag.
In fact, the best solution I’ve found to beat the Christmas Day boredom is to work. As I’ve got older and realised I’m happy (or at least not massively bothered) about working on Christmas Day, it’s become one of my favourite perks about being Jewish. Seriously. You see, 99.9% of Brits would rather pull out their own toenails than work on Christmas Day. Therefore, when you’re happy to do so – thus allowing them to spend a full day trapped in a house with their entire extended family, stuffing themselves silly and playing endless games of charades – they’re so incredibly grateful, that you can demand all kinds of ‘favours’ in return. For instance I once merrily agreed to work the entire Christmas period up to Boxing Day (which, incidentally I much prefer to actual Christmas Day, because A. shops are open, B. the TV is always better, C. turkey sandwiches), and in return didn’t have to go back into the office till January 7. JANUARY 7! It was glorious!
And talking to other non-Christmas celebrating friends, the consensus is the same. Yes, we enjoy the spirit of the period. Yes, we like the time off. Yes, we’re ALWAYS happy to receive presents/ food/ happy greetings. So while I might not buy into the whole Jesus thing or get the full British Christmas experience, I still look forward to it every year. Merry Christmas, one and all!