I enjoy Christmas with a zeal that only someone that comes from half a Jewish family background can have. I know my mother really enjoyed putting on Christmas, probably more so because she was raised in a Jewish household. When she married my Catholic-raised father and had children she threw herself into the festivities. Even long after they were divorced we still celebrated Christmas. Her favorite game was to say teasingly, “Let’s not have a Christmas tree this year!” to see our reaction and we always would exclaim, NO! WE WANT A TREE! I recall walking with her on a particularly brisk Winnipeg winter evening to the Loblaws parking lot to pick out a live tree. We had to drag the poor frozen thing down the back lane to our house. It took a whole day for the tree to unthaw after we cut the strings that wound its way around its brittle branches. I don’t know why I am fond of this memory, but I suppose it was the special time that we spent together and it was a rare time that I remember my mother’s laughter as we had to run -walk to keep our feet from freezing on our way home.
At this time of year, I sometimes can’t help myself and say things such as, “let’s not give presents this year,” just to see my family’s look of horror. This is one of the traits I have inherited from my mother. I have also inherited some of her Christmas ornaments. I love them with a ridiculously strong sense of sentimentality. I treasure a plastic angel and a red apple. I have been hanging these small tokens onto the branches of various trees for over forty- five years. Many people believe that this holiday is steeped in too much mass consumerism, which I agree with. But I believe that for most people this time of year is all about what your family creates together; whether it is sitting at the dining room table together with your Zeida (grandfather) celebrating Hannukah- eating heaping bowls of buttery perogies as part of a feast that took your baba all day to prepare. Or whether you are sitting around a fragrant hand-cut Christmas tree with your family eating seafood together on Christmas Eve. We shouldn’t get hung up on the other stuff, because we all know that it really isn’t about the stuff, it’s about the people you spend it with. The ornaments that we love—we love because of the people we have hung them with.
I am just reminding myself of this.
Click below for SNL’s It’s Christmas time for the Jews
Want a different kind of Christmas movie suggestion?
If you are in the mood for something a bit dark and like a character study with a Christmas twist try All is Bright, with two amazing actors-Paul Giamatti and Paul Rudd, there is nothing formula about it. It is dark, funny and bittersweet.