How to be a Jew at Christmas

Christmas is a wonderful time of year, unless you’re Jewish - in which case it’s a flipping awesome time of year. It’s essentially an entire month where we get to benefit from the sales, holidays and general laconic vibe that comes with Coca-Cola’s second favourite religious holiday, without actually getting involved. Meanwhile, there’s eight days of Hannukah, which thanks to shows like The OC and the fact that they involve deep fried potatoes, multiple presents and donuts, have become increasingly culturally significant outside of the .01% of my people who actually happen to live in Australia. Sure, booze still costs the same and there’s nothing to watch on TV, but given that most of us have already set up our torrent feeds to start searching for the second season of Girls while finishing off Homeland anyway, it’s no great drama. The silly season has never been more chilled out.

It wasn’t always like this. My family spent all of my childhood and most of my adolescent Christmas holidays in the same beachside town up the Coast. There were two channels on TV, and to give you an idea of how bad that was, one of them was Prime. Most local businesses shut their doors on December 23 and simply refused to get back off their arses until two weeks later, something that had never really happened in Sydney. I remember we used to stock up on food in advance because we were petrified that everyone else in the area was sorted and we’d end up slowly taking licks of the last remaining Frosty Fruit until we died in the thirty degree heat. But by far the worst part of it all was the kids.

There’s actually no better way to figure out your place in the world than running into the locals in a place far different from where you live. Not only did the free-spirited larks who lived in bungalows around us not know what a Jew was, they also couldn’t conceive of anybody not celebrating Christmas. And so, at the delicate age of seven, I learned exactly how to lie, not because I wanted to, but because I was surely facing a lifetime of ostracism from a motley group of beach-blonded punks who I had not yet realised I’d be spending the next fifteen summers with. Down on the sand, outside the bakery, in the fish and chips shop, they literally only had one focus and it was impossible to talk to them about anything else. Ok, I fib, it was two; What Do You Want For Christmas and What Did You Get For Christmas?

I’ve just moved out of home and I desperately need a bike. It’s a shame, really, because if I count up the amount of times I told Jesse and Joey from 5 Kuranalla Place that I’d gotten a bike for Christmas I’d have a goddamn fleet to choose from. Bikes were a safe way of getting around the inevitable problem of us getting older and Nintendo 64s, mobile phones and the Mini-Discs getting cheaper. If I’d said that I’d received anything vaguely tech-related, there would be demands for all the kids in the neighbourhood to play with it. You should have seen the hullabaloo when Christian (truthfully, that was his name) got a bloody iPod. It’s like the beach didn’t even exist. 

That uneasiness about Christmas may have waned a bit as I got older, but it’s never really gone away. This year everyone at my office received a giant Christmas hamper, complete with the biggest leg of ham on the planet, and have been slowly eating them ever since. Nobody seems to understand why I didn’t request one at all; and if I try to explain that I come from a huge, essentially ethnic family where an absence of cold cuts is on par with a war crime, you can just see eyes glazing over. I assume the Muslims in my building have a similar problem, and more than likely exhausted their catalogue of white lies on summer holidays, too. Of course we live in a multi-cultural country where everyone and everything is tolerated. But if there’s one thing that my ever-vigilant, very philosophical friends Jesse and Joey taught me, it’s that nobody fucks with Santa.  

(Lead image via here, by painter Cosmo Sarson)

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