I called my family this morning from the pay phone down the hall, amidst a couple of curious looks from the more strict Shabbat observers, but it seems to be fairly well-known that I am the token goy, so I am cut a bit of slack. It feels so little like Christmas, and that has me rather overjoyed. Oddly enough.
It has nothing to do with the fact that I sit in the midst of a Jewish institution surrounded by Jewish people. It has to do with the fact that Christmas has gotten too overwhelming in the past years. Is overwhelming the right word? I think not, but I don’t yet know what else to put in its stead.
It has to do with the months of anticipation of the day, begun in August when the Christmas catalogues begin to arrive like an assortment of paper bits of clockwork. “You must get this for so-and-so,” I am told. “No, this,” another sign screams. “And don’t forget about so-and-so’s wife, and brother, and mother, and kids!” “And the dog! The dog will feel left out without a present!” says the television.
“What are you doing for Christmas?” my friends begin to ask in October. Will my niece and nephew be in town for the holiday? And there’s my nephew’s wife and baby to consider, too (I’m a great-aunt, sheesh!). And what about our friend S., and will he manage to have a date this year?
And is it the great, honking turkey I cook, or the great, honking side of beef? The beef is easier but I feel like such a wuss if I don’t make a turkey.
And they must all be bought presents, too. And there’s the endless open maw of the child… “Mom, can I have a ________ for Christmas?” Fill in the blank with your choice of: staple gun, jigsaw (the saw, not a puzzle), BMW, pair of ice axes, iPod. [He’s actually asked for all of these, though not for the same Christmas.] He’s also very open to suggestions for suitable substitutes.
Instead of all of the above, I’ve had a nice, quiet day. There was a lovely teaching by Reb David on today’s parashat, and a Torah service, but I didn’t go to that. There was Shabbat lunch, and a restful afternoon. Shalashudis is soon, then havdalah and some music and storytelling. I am surrounded by friends.
“Merry Christmas,” I say to Tzipi, and chuckle.
She smiles back and says, “Merry Christmas! You certainly are an eclectic woman, aren’t you?”