I was a child, later an adult. Every holiday we gathered at my aunt’s house, taking in the scent of all the delicious Gramma food in the kitchen: chicken or turkey, kugel, chopped stringbeans, matzoh ball soup, all a beautiful blend of tradition that made me remember the Old Country that I never knew.
My Old Country is the Bronx. That’s all I have. No shtetls, no pogroms, no Holocaust. I only heard of those from my Gramma, and thank goodness I never had to live through them.
November 1st, my next door neighbor put up her Christmas decorations.
I love Christmas. It’s a great holiday, and even though I’m of a different religion, I embrace it, falling into the metaphorical melting pot that is the foundation of American culture. I say Merry Christmas. I watch Christmas movies like Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas (best Christmas movie evar!!!!) I write about Santa Claus and his New York roots. I celebrate with my Christian friends. I don’t get upset when people wish me “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Hannukah.” I understand that my people are a small population (even in New York), and I don’t expect people to include me in their reindeer games. It’s about the sentiment, not the accuracy.
November 1st, my next door neighbor put up her Christmas decorations.
What about Thanksgiving? Where are the “Happy Thanksgiving” signs and the cornucopias? Where are the turkeys drawn by spreading out your hand? Where’s the stuffing? Where’s the cranberry sauce. How did we lose an entire holiday?
And this isn’t just a minor holiday. Thanksgiving is one of the big ones. It’s turkey and family and football and listening to Alice’s Restaurant on the radio (the whole thing…Did I mention that I come from a family of hippies?). It’s also a holiday where I don’t have to sublimate my religion to celebrate it. It’s a national holiday, not a religious one.
I love Christmas decorations, but there is a time and place for everything. Thanksgiving comes first.
btw: said neighbor always wishes me “Merry Christmas.” She knows that I’m Jewish. I just smile and nod. I’m sure she means well.
Not only does it help families in need, but the connection to authors gives added incentive for my fellow writers to contribute. In short: people give presents to the charity for children in need. Authors then donate books to those contributors. It gives some exposure to the author, and reward to the contributor for their good need. Most of all, it makes sure that these children have a happy holiday.
Take it away, T.E.
Though Christmas is still a while away, I wanted to ask for a moment of your time to talk to you about a cause that’s near and dear to my heart: Giftapalooza.
Giftapalooza is an online charity event I started in 2013. The only goal I had at that time was to help families in need provide a decent Christmas for their kids. Most, if not all of you reading this post, have been in that situation before. You know, the one where bills are piling up and you can’t seem to stretch your paycheck as far as you need to. I, too, have known the hardships of poverty, sickness, emergencies in the family, and unexpected financial changes.
When I created Giftapalooza, the only thing I wanted was to make a difference for families in need. I was thinking about the single mothers and fathers working two jobs just to put food on the table; the family who unexpectedly lost someone important in their lives and now scramble to pay for the funeral; the dad who just lost his job because the company couldn’t afford to keep him on. No matter the circumstances behind the reason for needing help, this is exactly why Giftapalooza exists.
I am aware there are tons of charities out there with this specific goal in mind, but what makes Giftapalooza unique is the fact it is for indie families in need, and the Santas are also from the indie community. Authors, bloggers, and readers come together during the months of November and December to make some serious Christmas magic happen.
In 2015, we gave $4,203 worth of gifts to 43 families. It is my sincere hope we can double that number this year, but we can’t do it without your help. Even if you only purchase one gift for a child in need, you’ve already made a world of difference. For more information on how you can donate a thank-you gift, join the event, or get assistance, you can visit our website. We are so excited to get this year started and to help as many families as we can. Hope to see you there!
A new article from my New York History series. It discusses the origins of our modern version of Santa Claus, and how it popularized the rarely celebrated Christ (yes, there was a time when no one celebrated it). I think you’ll be surprised by what you learn.
I love Christmas, even though I’m Jewish. I celebrate both holidays (in a way) because most of my friends are Christians and I like the traditions. I even like the music, although by now I’m over it. They started playing Christmas music before Thanksgiving, and I can’t take it any more.
That said, I have a few favorites that you don’t often hear on the radio or at the supermarket (a few of them you do, but they’re still awesome). Some of them you might like, some…you get the idea.
Here they are, my favorite Christmas (and a couple of Hannukah) songs.
Merry Christmas From the Family–Robert Earl Keene
A beautiful slice of redneck life. It’s warm, endearing, and hilarious.
The Dreidel Song–South Park
The layered lyrics in this song are perfect. Parker and Stone have a talent for songcraft (and dick jokes)
You’re a Mean One Mister Grinch–Sung by Tim Timebomb and Friends
I inherited my late girlfriend’s love of Tim Armstrong. The song is a classic, and there’s something about Tim’s graveled, broken voice that I freakin’ love. Merry Christmas, Valerie.
Santa Claus is Coming to Town–Sung by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band
This is Bruce in all of his glory. If you haven’t seen Bruce in concert, make it happen.
Christmastime For the Jews–Darlene Love on SNL
I never get tired of this. It’s so true (I’m having Chinese food tonight)
This is one of the most beautiful Christmas songs ever. It captures the sadness that so many of us feel during the holidays, so far away from our loved ones or having none at all.
O Holy Night–South Park (Cartman)
This is brilliant. I know I posted a South Park one before, but I can’t resist. I also thought about adding “It’s Hard to be a Jew on Christmas,” but two songs is enough.
Ok, I think that’s all for now. Merry Christmas everyone!
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Some of you might know that I am Jewish (I talk about it all the time), and I celebrate Chanukah (with a hard ‘ch’ like you’re clearing your throat). What you may not know is that I, like many other Jews, celebrate Christmas. We do this because we’re “encouraged” to by both society and by business. Schools and jobs close for Christmas, but not Chanukah. The only time that our family can get together is on Christmas. We have to celebrate it by proxy. So much for a “war on Christmas.” It’s actually a war on every other winter holiday.
This year was especially awkward, since Chanukah fell so early. My family had no get together this Christmas or Chanukah. If you’re wondering why Chanukah moves around so much, it’s because the traditional Jewish calendar is lunar, not solar. The Sun doesn’t vary its position in the sky very far in Israel. It was much easier back then to track time by the Moon.
Penguins make it festive
Here’s an imaginary conversation with someone pissed off because I say “happy holidays”:
Me: Happy holidays
Them: I’m Christian, blah blah blah Fox News blah blah blah War on Christmas blah blah blah Obamacare.
Me: Do you celebrate New Year’s?
Them: Of course
Me: That’s two holidays. Plural. Happy holidays.
I do often celebrate Christmas though with a goyish family, or at least I try to. I like the festive nature. I like that people pretend to love each other, if only for a short while. I like Christmas music.
During WWI, the warring sides actually had a truce during Christmas. They say that you could hear the enemy singing Christmas carols from the other side of the trenches, and they joined together in song. Then they went back to dropping mustard gas on each other.
During the American Revolution, Washington famously crossed the Delaware River late Christmas night for a surprise attack early morning on the 26th, the famous Battle of Trenton. No blood on Christmas, plenty the day after.
Forgive me for being bitter, but last year’s Christmas was beautiful. I was with Valerie and her family. I was madly in love (still am), and enamored with my new family. Less than a month later, Valerie was dead, and I have yet to recover. I doubt I ever will.
The photo that I use as an avatar is the photo Val and I took for Val’s mom. We put it in a nice frame.
The point is, wen I was younger, people often said “keep Christmas in your heart all year long,” but no one does. We go right back to hating each other once the clock strikes midnight.
Merry Christmas. Keep it in your heart all year long…in other words, don’t be a dick.