Why I don’t celebrate Christmukkah

At Shabbat services last Friday night, the rabbi asked us all who we dealt with this time of year–meaning December, with it’s emphasis on, of course, Christmas.

I think she was surprised at the answers she got: most of the congregants pretty much thought there wasn’t much to deal with; they actually like the pretty lights just fine, and don’t feel particularly threatened by them. I found myself thinking, later, that this made a lot of sense: it takes more than some lights and a guy in a red suit to threaten one’s Jewishness; even a tree in one’s living room can’t make one more or less Jewish, after all. It’s just a tree.

There is a point where this time of year makes me uncomfortable, though–and that’s when people begin to assume that of course everyone celebrates Christmas; or, more, when they assume Chanukah pretty much is Christmas, a sort of Jewish version of same (and that the solstice is a pagan version), and we’re all deep down really celebrating the same holiday.

Because I enjoy the trappings of Christmas, the lights and even the music. And I think the story of Christmas is a beautiful story.

But it’s not my story. And I’m pretty comfortable with that, these days. I’m a writer, and a reader, and a human being; I enjoy other people’s stories.

It doesn’t have to be my story, for it to be okay and even right for it to be someone else’s story. No one has to feel awkward that I’m not celebrating their holiday (though I get the impression sometimes folks are), or to pretend that deep down I really am celebrating it, under another name.

Even if I were celebrating Christmas, I wouldn’t want to pretend that it and Chanukah were the same, or to dub them both part of Christmukkah. I mean, I do celebrate the solstice–in a secular way, because I want to mark the short days growing long again–but that’s a separate thing from my Chanukah celebration, too. They’re too different holidays, not one combined holiday.

There are many stories, and most of them have something of beauty and truth in them. There’s even common ground among those stories, points of overlap; and they can inform and enrich each other (I mean, I like that Klezmer Christmas mix.) But to insist they’re all really entirely the same seems, to me, to dilute something of that beauty and power and truth.

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