As a Jew I really have come to love Christmas. I didn't love it so much when I was working retail but now that those days are behind me I'm back to loving it again. I suppose I love it for all the wrong reasons but again, I'm a Jew so I think I should be given some leeway on this one.
I love it because I like the lights and the makeshift eco-ice iceskating rings that pop up all over California (almost like skating on REAL ice...or so I'm told). I love the Christmas carols by Annie Lennox, Stevie Nicks or any other pop sensation with a haunting voice that I once listened to with my mom when I was a little kid.
But most of all I love that I don't have to stress over the whole thing. My son and I go all out for Hanukkah. I decorate the house in sparkling blue and white banners and whatnot with the word Hanukkah spelled in four or five different ways, I make sure that there's at least one perfectly wrapped gift to open for each of the eight nights, I make latkes and I scout out the entire city to find the best jelly donuts. It's fun, it's magical and it's exhausting. And when it's done it's done. I don't have to stress anymore. I am not out there with the last minute shoppers desperately trying to find the perfect last minute holiday gift. If there is someone who I feel needs a Christmas gift from me I usually just try to get it there by New Years. I figure they all know I'm a Jew and therefore will excuse my inability to remember that I must ship a week early in order to get the post office to deliver something to a residence by the 24th. Being Jewish at Christmas is like being Californian in New York. "Oh so she's always a little late and a little crazy," my New York friends will say during my visits, with a little chuckle. "It's part of her Californian charm." That's exactly how my Christian friends view my belated gifts and my Christmas-laissez-faire attitude. It's just me being my charmingly crazy Jewish self.
It's also true that while Hanukkah always sets me back a few bucks financially it doesn't have the financial impact Christmas seems to have on a lot of people. I used to try to get a little Christmas gift for each of my son's teachers but now that I'm in LA my son's teachers are all Jewish anyway so I just send him to school with a few extra jelly donuts to hand out during the Festival of Lights and boom, we're done. Not a lot of extra expense there.
And I don't have to lug a tree on top of my car or vacuum up a bunch of nettles, instead I can enjoy everybody else's trees without putting out any effort at all. I know the commercials say that the Christmas season is supposed to be about cherished family time and all that but as I said, I used to work retail and I know damned well that for a lot of people Christmas is about running around like a crazy person, maxing out your credit card, fighting your fellow shoppers for the last remaining animatronic toy and/or video games that was advertised during the Sponge Bob Holiday Special and screaming at your salesperson because she can't find a size eight holiday party dress that will fit your recently eggnog-enhanced figure. God forbid you should just buy a ten...but lets not waste time revisiting the Ghost of Christmas-Retail-Past. My point is that as someone who doesn't have to worry about any of that I can just sit back and watch The Christmas Story for the 8-millionth time while eating bagel chips and my much less caloric but equally indulgent pomegranate martini (although there's a chance that there's still some evidence of the jelly donuts on my figure by the time the 25th rolls around but most of it has inevitably been burned off while stumbling around on the eco-ice).
And perhaps most importantly, I love Christmas because no one makes any demands of me between the 24th of December and January 1st. Editors and whatnot are all out of the office, no one sets a deadline that lands during this week. If I'm working on a new book, no one from marketing will choose this week to call me out of the blue to ask if I could get them a new author's bio or a list of quotes from recent reviews by tomorrow. I usually send my son up to Santa Cruz to spend time with my parents and for once I get to work on whatever it is I want to work on without being pulled in fifty different directions.
It's hard to find that kind of calm when you're a working single mother and when you do find it, once a year during Christmas, it's worth cherishing.
For me that's the magic of Christmas.
So to all my readers, Merry Christmas. If you're celebrating it then I hope your holiday is filled with joy and laughter. If you're not really celebrating it because you're one of my fellow tribe members, or a member of another non-Christian religion, are a Jehovah Witness or are simply allergic to pine-trees then I hope your day is filled with the peace and calm that only Christmas can bring.
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