Like a lot of Jewish parents, my mother and father felt the the best way to imbue me with a strong Jewish identity was to deny me a Christmas tree, visits to Santa, and any other aspect of mainstream holiday cheer. This policy had the unwelcome effect of turning me into this crazed Christmas fanatic, like how if you deny your kids sugar they grow up to be compulsive secret eaters. When I got a little older, I was sometimes invited on Christmas day to the house of a sympathetic Gentile friend. I would sit there sadly, watching the Gentiles open all their mountains of presents. Sometimes they would give me a little something, which was almost always an ornament for the tree I wasn’t allowed to have. Once I pointed that out, I said: “You know, I don’t have a Christmas tree because I’m Jewish,” and the grandma said, “Oh, well, then I guess you can just put it on the thing that opens the blinds.” ON THE THING THAT OPENS THE BLINDS. Fuck you, Gentile Grandma.
To this day, I still desperately want a Christmas tree. My husband won’t let me have one. We’ve had no fewer than three screaming fights on this subject this season alone, all of which have included the phrases: “Maybe you should go marry some goy then!!!” and “MAYBE I WILL!!!!” It’s stupid. We both know my parents would never have paid for the wedding if I’d married a non-Jew. For sure they wouldn’t have sprung for a sit-down dinner.
We’ll probably have this fight again on Christmas day this year. Then we’ll probably go to a movie neither one of us really wants to see, and then we’ll go wait in line at Joe’s Shanghai in Chinatown in the freezing cold until we give up and go eat at some shittier place around the corner. Wait, I forgot–this year I want to go see the re-release of Shoah. It’s playing at Lincoln Plaza and it’s nine-and-a-half hours long, so by the time we get all the way downtown the crowds will have died down, and we might get a decent freaking soup dumpling for once. Ho ho ho.
Rachel Shukert’s latest book is Everything is Going to be Great: An Underfunded, Overexposed European Grand Tour