Oy vey! It’s Christmas Day
To be a Jew on Christmas is to truly be one with boredom.As far as Jews are concerned, Christmas Day may as well be Yom Kippur. On Yom Kippur, Jews are supposed to do little besides reflect and not eat. While Christmas beats Yom Kippur in that food is permitted, there isn’t much else to do besides think. Fortunately brains are one of the few things that don’t close on December 25th. While seemingly the rest of the universe is busy opening gifts and roasting geese, Christmas can be the perfect time for a Jew to catch up on sleep, assemble a 4,500-piece puzzle, thaw out the freezer, organize the spice rack or arrange the linen closet in ascending order according to the thread count of the sheets. But when the projects that have been put off since last Christmas have been completed by late morning, time can really start to drag. Urban legend has it that Jews spend Christmas Day at the movies. However, December 25th isn’t July 4th, at which time all the fun, shoot ’em up, blast ’em into outer space and then rescue ’em from the toxic burning lava of the erupting volcanoes blockbusters open. No, Christmas is when the epic, four-hour long, five-hanky weepers are released (e.g. “Schindler’s List,” “Titanic” and this year, “Munich”). So while yes, Christmas Day at the movies is a good time to bump into the Jews who haven’t been seen since Rosh Hashanah services, most are likely so depressed by the time the credits roll at the end of the heart-wrenching cinematic sagas that they prefer to sneak out of the theater and go home to watch paint dry on the bathroom wall, count the tiles on the kitchen floor, make out their living wills or re-read “The Diary of Anne Frank” instead of attempting excruciatingly peppy small talk with friends and neighbors. An alternative way to pass time is to watch movies at home. Anyone without a Netflix subscription, though, needs to plan at-home viewing by December 23 at the very latest as DVD selections at video stores on Christmas Eve are generally limited to “Ishtar,” “The Godfather III” and “Police Academy 6: City Under Siege.” Those who forsake advanced rental strategies inevitably get stuck watching terrestrial TV and the options on Christmas Day are frighteningly slim: the final 24 hours of the “It’s A Wonderful Life” 96-hour marathon and a handful of religious shows (which would actually be somewhat entertaining if Jim Baker, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell or Jimmy Swaggert were leading the flock, but the networks tend to favor pulpits in local churches on Christmas). New York is an exception to the Bad TV on Christmas Day rule, as it has one good programming option: WPIX-TV Channel 11 shows a log burning in a fireplace – and nothing else – for four hours. It’s utterly mesmerizing.When not watching movies or speculating which non-Chinese restaurants might be open, occasionally Jews gather together on Christmas and ponder where mistletoe, plum pudding, fruitcake and eggnog fit into the story of Jesus’ birth. And conversations tomorrow will have a brand new topic for debate: Is Christmas really under siege? Would Jesus have supported the Bill O’Reilly-led boycott of Target and other stores that printed Happy Holidays instead of Merry Christmas in their seasonal advertisements? Are people to be considered less-than-devout Christians if they bought the “Star Wars Trilogy” DVD boxed set or an Xbox 360 from retailers that didn’t acknowledge a specific holiday or religion in their sales circulars or when greeting customers at the cash register? Poor Jesus – it’s been 2,005 years and he still can’t catch a break. Listening to the radio is presumably a good Christmas Day activity for Jews, but not all choose to exercise their option to tune in. By late afternoon on Christmas some Jews begin to wonder when, or if, the radio stations will stop the 24 hours (or, as is the case on some stations, six weeks) of yuletide music and resume their regular formats. Many Jews, however, will admit to loving Christmas music (with the obvious exception of Kenny G’s seasonal interpretations – Jew or no Jew, is there anyone who wants to hear a smooth jazz version of “Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer?”). In fact, as long as a song isn’t too Christ-y, it’s not highly unusual to see a fair amount of Jews out for leisurely drives looking at their neighbors’ Christmas lights and singing along in their cars to “Feliz Navidad.” But truly, when the sun sets on the 25th, isn’t it safe to assume that Santa Claus has come to (and left) town, the halls have been decked, the merry gentleman has had his fair share of rest and dreams of a white Christmas have either come to fruition or not?Thankfully there are 112 days remaining for Jews to recover before Easter-ennui sets in. At least a few more stores stay open on Easter Sunday and it’s not a holiday that has music to call its own.Meredith Cohen finds it fortunate that at least one Christmas tradition can be enjoyed any month of the year – the Hershey’s Kisses wrapped in red and green foil never seem to get stale. Questions or comments may be e-mailed to email@example.com
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Vignettes of life in the valley. Some you may have heard; hopefully, others will be new.