Wednesday, December 16, 2009

My First Christmukah

I was lonesome and tired of spending Thanksgiving and Christmas without my long-time boyfriend, David. I was still going by myself to see my family in Philly for Thanksgiving and Christmas each year. David was going to his cousins in Poughkeepsie for Thanksgiving and his parents’ house for Jewish Christmas (Christmukah? Hannumas?) in Connecticut.

I was not really sure what happened for Jewish Christmas- Jews who celebrated secular Christmas- but if I had to venture a guess, I would say it involved anxiety and maybe a tree of some sort?

But back to the tired and lonely. We’d been together six years in total, before I finally asked him about swapping holidays with our families. He is generally resistant to change but grew quickly accustomed to the idea of having a really indulgent holiday meal each year- Thanksgiving in Poughkeepsie is generally kosher/semi-vegetarian.

After a very buttery Thanksgiving in Philly, David told me many fascinating facts about his family’s holiday celebrations including how:

-His dad grew up Catholic but his mom is Jewish. In the end, David’s dad, and Christmas, won the day. Once you have Christmas with kids, you can’t take it away.

-They celebrated Hannukah and Christmas. Even when they overlapped! AM and PM presents? Sign me up!

-David’s dad sometimes dressed up as Moishe Claus, a rather ingenious and goofy Hannumas mash-up, with peyos, a big grey beard, Santa suit and yarmulke.

-David’s mom does not like Christmas. Or Christmukah. Or Hannumas. The tree sits on the deck in the elements until Christmas Eve, when it is rushed inside, decorated, then removed on December 26.

With all this in mind, I packed up my HO HO HO pajamas, Santa hat, jingly bell earrings, Christmas socks and booklet of music. We headed into CT to spend Christmukah Eve with David’s family: parents, sister, brother and his girlfriend. The evening evolved like this:

-A Traditional Meal- Argument over what to have for dinner. Wound up getting take-out from local Italian place. Ho ho ho!

-A Festive Word or Two- David and his mom then got into a huge fight about who needed to be in therapy more, him or her. The best part of that is that they are both therapists, by trade! There was yelling and stomping and rushing in and out of rooms. As soon as it started, his dad, brother and sister fled the main room at top speed, where we had just started decorating the Christma…Hannuk...tree. Ho ho ho!

-The Trimming of the Tree- I didn’t have anywhere to go during the fight, so I slowly unpacked all the ornaments and tried not to eavesdrop. It was the strangest grouping of objects ever, to me. It would have been the perfect opportunity to tell me about how and why so many macaroni/paper m√Ęche-based dreidel and menorah ornaments came to be. But alas, the fighting! Towards the middle of my silent night, David’s brother’s Jewish girlfriend, who had never celebrated Christmas, began helping me, so we trimmed the tree alone, the lapsed Catholic and the Jew. Ho ho ho?

I’ll never forget that tree trimming. I talked ornament-hanging technique tips with Rachel, like an old pro, as we hummed non-denominational carols.

The argument was resolved at some point and the evening slipped away. I slept on a trundle bed next to David and we were awoken early in the morning because the Christmas tree had just fallen over and crashed into the wall. David and I couldn’t fall back to sleep after that because we caught that giddy little kid IT’S CHRISTMAS!!!!!! bug. Unfortunately, no one else in the house was ready to wake up and Christmukah officially started somewhere around noon.

David’s dad was so cute and excited, with letters he’d written from Santa, overflowing stockings and thoughtful gifts for everyone. His mom was anxious about the big dinner later with the rest of his family (even though David did/does much of the cooking for it.) Even the cat got gifts that she promptly ignored. All in all, it felt the same as my family’s Christmas, the eating of too many sweets before a real meal, the lounging around, the breaking/crashing of battery-operated toys before the end of the day, the Thanksgiving Part Two-ishness of the dinner that night…all the same.

Even without going to church in the morning (didn’t miss that much,) the early wake-up for present tearing-open, the lack of caroling, the no sneaking baby Jesus out of the manger and into the open train car circling the tree, Jewish Christmas is a lot like regular Christmas. You get to spend a day off with the person you love.

This blog entry is part of December's The Great Experiment. If you enjoyed this, please vote for me at the amazing, must-read blog of The Girl Who.


  1. This was such a good slice of life post. And funny too! You really have a knack for describing things. I hope you keep writing! Am glad I found your blog... or that you found mine or whatever!

  2. I enjoyed reading this:)

  3. Hopefully, there will be an update for this years holiday observations as a follow up. As already mentioned above, your powers of description coupled with your awareness of the small things make for a special story.
    Very nice!

  4. Thanks so much for your comments! I just started this blog, after pretty much ignoring my old one/not writing anything for a long time.


    David and I are now married and had to spend our first married Thanksgiving this year apart, for various reasons, including a crummy work schedule.

    Thanksgiving in Poughkeepsie carries on to this day, butterless and pie-free.

    We will be having another Jewish Christmas this year, and will be cooking. I’ll let you know about the caroling…

  5. Agh! I missed the voting period! But here I am. And I didn't know you have a Blogger Blog too! Small world! Mine's a craft one but I shut my xanga one awhile ago, so may start another one here that ignores the crafty stuff.