I married into Christmas. I was raised Jewish, and it wasn't until years later, long after my friends had given up their misguided notions of Santa and flying reindeer that I helped decorate my first Christmas tree.
Sometime during my college years I celebrated Christmas in the frozen city of Minneapolis with my boyfriend's family. They had years of traditions behind them. Swedish smorgasbord for Christmas Eve, red & green packages unwrapped that evening. Christmas morning David's younger cousins received presents from "Santa", lots and lots of presents. And although the eldest was old enough to know better they all held fast to the magic of Saint Nicholas.
Now that I have children of my own, I play the game, although I seem to be wholly unaware of the rules. I found out from my friends that Santa gifts have to be in separate gift wrap... so that the secret is not reveled by an older sibling putting the pieces together. There are cookies and milk that must be left out for Mr. Clause and carrots for the reindeer on Christmas Eve, don't forget the reindeer, the flying freaking reindeer. There are letters to be dropped in the mail box with a stamp and a wink. Forged signatures, "Love Santa" and visits to the man in red at the shopping mall.
I admit that I think it's fun.... it just doesn't make any damn sense. It's "magic" I tell my sons snuggling them close and reading "Twas' The Night Before Christmas" when only days before I had calmed a frightened child telling him "no, no, Harry Potter is just pretend, don't be frightened." Harry Potter is make-believe but a fat man and a million tiny elves who make gifts for the entire world (except the Jews, and Muslims and all those other non-believer kids who go completely ignored on December 25th) Is real? Santa who is taken by flying reindeer through the night sky to deliver said gifts across multiple cotenants is real?
I get it, it's fun. It's cute. I even like the pictures of the crying babies tortured on the lap of a strange man with a fake beard in a crowded shopping mall.
But here is the problem. What are you suppose to do when they start questioning the wild tale they believed blindly last year. What are you suppose to do when your 8 year old begins asking those difficult questions in ear shot of his younger brothers:
"Mom. How come my chemistry set from Santa Clause had the Toys R Us logo on it last year?"
"Why can't I have my own Ipad for Christmas? Santa can bring it."
"How come I have never seen a flying deer before?"
"I know you can't buy a SpongeBob-Woody Woodpecker skateboard at the store, but can't the elves make one for me.... or are the elves not even real?"
Are we suppose to continue to weave bigger and bigger tales?
"Santa subcontracts with Toys R Us."
"Elves are allergic to electronics"
"Reindeers are magic and invisible to children."
"Elves are real, but they don't have time to customize skateboards"
Seriously. It's getting ridiculous.
I'm starting to think that we Jews got it right. Sure, our holidays aren't nearly as exciting for kids (think 2 hour Passover Seder, feasting on matzo and horseradish versus a bunny delivering baskets of chocolate and marshmallow chicks), but at least we make it easy on ourselves. One present each night. From mom and dad. No sneaky wrapping paper tricks and forged Santa handwriting.
No crushing heart to heart conversation with a teary eyed 9 year old confessing it was all a lie. I have heard tales of devastated pre-adolescents needing therapy to overcome the cruel reality that mom and dad were simply telling fibs.
Yeah we Jews got that part right. Our holidays may not be as flashy ( remember the Hanukkah of 1983 when your friends got boom boxes and ten-speed bikes and all you got was Star of David stationary from the temple gift shop? I do) but they are simple and relatively inexpensive.
But yes. I married into Christmas, and embrace the lot of it. I'm a Christmas Jew just
trying to figure out how to get through the holiday with out "effing" it up.