Monday, December 25, 2006

Christmas DOESN'T have to be for everyone!

"Sex and the City" executive producer Cindy Chupak's article in yesterday's NY Times was problematic on more levels than there are days of Hanukkah (I would have used "days of Christmas," but I have no idea how many days of Christmas there really are. It would appear there is only one, but then there is that song that includes the lyrics "On the 12th day of Christmas my true love gave to me" that has always confused me.)

Chupak is a newly married Jewish woman who, together with her Jewish husband, decides to jump right into the Christmas spirit and purchases a Christmas tree for their new home. Of course, Chupak blames the Pottery Barn holiday catalog for the fact that they picked out a Home Depot Christmas tree a year-and-a-half after they presumably stood under a chuppah proclaiming to make a Jewish home together.

As a rabbi, I have come to empathize with interfaith families who have to face the daunting challenge of the "December Dilemma" each winter, and I am of the opinion that each interfaith family has to make difficult decisions for themselves as to how they will handle celebrating (or not celebrating) Christmas. Even families in which both partners are Jewish but one converted to Judaism struggle this time of year because of the one non-Jewish side of the family (grandparents, siblings, etc.). At my shul I have instituted an "Interfaith Family Forum" to help interfaith families navigate these thorny issues. However, this article is troubling because it is about two Jewish partners in a marriage caving in to the annual Christmas envy that some Jewish people feel.

Chupak writes, "So here we are: two newlywed Jews celebrating our No No Noel (or Ho Ho Hanukkah) not because we secretly want to convert to Christianity, but because the rampant commercialization of Christmas works!"

The rampant commercialization of Christmas should work... for Christians! Not for Jews. My advice to the Chupak family: About a week or two before September 26 next year, you both should go to Home Depot and shop for some materials to build a sukkah (you can even decorate it with flashing lights if you wish). Then mill through the Pottery Barn catalog and pick out some cute chotchkes to decorate your sukkah.

You and your choo-choo-train-around-the-Christmas-Tree-loving-husband will be able to spend eight wonderful evenings together having holiday meals in your sukkah. You might even make your Christmas-celebrating neighbors jealous of your adorable hut holiday! Oh, and when you have kids, you can teach them about how much fun the Jewish holidays like Sukkot, Purim, Tu Bishvat, and Hanukkah (see for creative ways to celebrate these) can be without having to adopt any of the rituals of Christian holidays... even the secular rituals in an à la carte way!

Jewlicious also blogged about Cindy Chupak rationalizing her Christmas observance.

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