It has recently come to my attention that many Jews, particularly of the New York City variety, have a tradition of eating out Chinese food and then going to a movie on Christmas Eve. Crazy. Where I grew up, in Upstate New York, there was no such thing as Jewish Christmas Eve. My family did nothing on Christmas Eve, unless it was one of the nights of Hannukah, and then we lit the menorah. The first Christmas that Ron and I lived together, he went out and bought a little Christmas Tree for $5 on sale on Christmas Eve. Then we called his mom and opened our presents together while on the phone with her. We had no ornaments for the tree. Before we had children, Ron started a tradition of making me cheese blintzes every year for Christmas Dinner. What else do you make for a Jewish wife on Christmas?
Once we had children, Christmas became more magical every year while they were growing up until we had many traditions: choosing and cutting a tree on our property at the Ranch, decorating the tree with all the ornaments the children made over the years (or that were gifted to us—a Jewish wife does not bring Christmas tree ornaments to a marriage), baking holiday cookies, leaving milk and cookies out for Santa on Christmas Eve (and lettuce for the reindeer), going to the Christmas sing-along at Hopland School, gleeful secrets, hiding gifts, watching It’s a Wonderful Life, Ron making fried chicken and biscuits for Christmas Dinner, Sudi getting up at 4AM to see what he got (I always had to leave one gift out for him to open and play with until the rest of us woke up), eggnog, the living room floor completely covered with wrapping paper (Golda and Ella, the cats, playing in the paper), friends coming to visit and sharing Christmas Dinner with us, watching movies, playing board games, setting up the train set and adding all the new pieces that were in the stockings, eating too many Reese’s peanut butter cups, listening for hours and hours to Ron’s huge collection of Christmas music, and on and on. We have been so blessed. With our children in college, we have scaled back on gifts in recent years. Our children now say that all they really want for Christmas is Dad’s chicken and biscuits. As a Jew, looking back on 30 years of Christmases with a Christian partner, I am grateful that Christmas entered my life. I wouldn’t trade our Christmas Eve for Chinese takeout and a movie. Embracing Ron’s cherished holiday has enriched my life. Christmas is so much bigger than its Christian roots. It’s the celebration of gratitude, sharing, caring, and love. It can be embraced and appreciated by anyone, no matter what their religious or spiritual beliefs. So yes, come all ye faithful, joyful, and triumphant. Come ye to the celebration of the best that we can be for each other, the celebration of the intrinsic value of every human spirit.