Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Santa Free Zone

I have a question for you. Let me start at the beginning.

Christmas is a very hard time around my house. We are Jewish and we do not celebrate Christmas at all. Not a little not a smidgen not an iota not a nano particle. On this point I will never budge.

Its not cause I'm a meany (although I may be one its completely unrelated) and I don't judge other Jews who choose to follow the red and green road. I just believe Christmas is not a secular holiday. Its like Brooklyn Day being celebrated in Manhattan its just not our thing.

Christmas is a huge holiday in the states. Christmas music plays in every store. Pictures of Santa's and chimneys are everywhere. Green trees hung with ornaments take over the streets. Even his beloved Elmo hangs antlers on his red fuzzy head and sings carols.

Its hard to be a little Jewish boy watching all of this. Poor little B wants Christmas so badly. He dreams of Christmas. He has little sugar plums dancing in his little yiddle head. He dreams of Santa sliding down our chimney (we dont really have one but a kid can dream) and stuffing his little smelly socks with candy. But alas it is not to be.

After watching a tear slide down his Jewish nose as he thought of the Christmas not to be. I decided to talk up Chanukah's reminding him of eight days of presents. I talked up Passover and getting presents when he finds the Afikoman (the hidden matzoh). I bubbled enthusiastically about the lighting the candles every Sabbath. It was exhausting but after quiet a talk up I finally finally I saw a little smile.

"Yeah I'm gonna get eight days of presents!" He bragged. I had done it I thought. I have broken Christmas magical hold on my son all will be well.

Yesterday we passed another store all decked out in the Christmas spirit. There were Christmas trees and reindeer it was a whole Christmas fest. B went by sighed longingly and said and said."Mommy can we celebrate Christmas this year?" Oh no I thought not again! I took a deep breath and reminded how Jews do not celebrate Christmas I launched into went into my great speech about Chanukah's Passover blah blah blah. It was exhausting.

But Mommy he said "Some Jews do celebrate Christmas." "No they don't." I snapped hoping not do another song and dance about the whole thing. "Yes they do. My teacher Ms. Deborah said some Jews celebrate Christmas. She said her friend is Jewish and she has a tree and Santa comes to her house. Can we have a tree? Can we have presents? Can we huh?"

So the question is it bad form to tell my sons teacher what she can "do" with her Jewish Christmas tree? Cause I've got a good place she can put it.

46 comments:

laughin said...

Could it be time to explain to him how some people are "Jewish" but do not actually follow Jewish traditions?

Ali said...

Oooh *winces*, I guess that would be one way of handling it. I hope he gets over his longing for Christmas soon. He won't keep going on about it for the next 6 weeks surely??? You could just tell him his teacher is a crackpot.

Embee said...

I know kids love to celebrate anything in school, but honestly, school is not the place to celebrate religious holidays because of situations like yours. My family is not religious at all, yet we celebrate Christmas as a time to be together as a family. We're probably more in keeping with the original pre-Christian....mid-winter celebration, etc. We've got a hybrid holiday going on. Although my husband was raised in a Christian family, I wasn't so all the religion kinda gets on my nerves. So, short story long, although it's probably Scroogy to say, especially since Christmas is a multi-zillion dollar American Industry, it's not very fair to non-Christians to force it on everyone. Especially in public institutions like school. I could rant for hours about this particular subject, but I'll stop now. Good luck!

Queen-Size funny bone said...

Can you maybe celebrate winter. snowmen, snowballs, feeding birds etc. winter activities. make it more about the season than a holiday. It must be hard. make it special that your family does something others do not do. makes him special.

Tay said...

I love that you're sticking to what you feel to be right. Christmas is so commercialized I don't think most people really understand why it's celebrated. I can see why your son wants it so bad - it's being shoved in his face at every turn.
Maybe you can just "chat" with his teacher and let her know what you think about what she is teaching your son. And maybe explain to her why. If she doesn't get it or gives you attitude, I would totally tell her "what she can 'do' with her Jewish Christmas tree." :)

Susan said...

This is such a tricky situation with children. My mother's birthday was on Christmas day, so we had to deal with the birthday part, the Santa part and with the religious part. I am a Christian that now celebrates the conception being on Dec 25, instead of the birth, and that adds another element to it all. I don't have any little ones, but as an adult, I feel that in regards to religion, you should be true to what you believe, while still maintaining your credibility with your community and support system. It won't be long until he understands what you are telling him. Make sure he sees the symbols of your religion on a regular basis and pray for wisdom and guidance. Sorry if I sound preachy. Don't meant to. Hugs. Susan

debby said...

As always Suzie, this was so funny. You make me laugh out loud, which puzzles my dogs every morning.

But on the serious side of things, can I just tell you how much I admire you. I am a Christian, and serious about it. So all the Christmas hoopla gets to me in a different way. Every year I spend less and less time in the stores between halloween and xmas, and every year I 'do' presents less and less.

But I truly do admire you for living your convictions. i think one of the things that makes this difficult to explain to your son (besides the fact that he is just a little kid) is that there is such a disparity between the Christmas that you are not celebrating, and the Christmas that he sees all around him in this world. The Christmas that is all around him in this world (at least where I live in the U.S.) has nothing to do with the birth of Christ.

WillThink4Wine said...

IMHO, I think you should talk to the principal and ask what school policy is on religion in the classrooms. It doesn't belong there.

autumnesf said...

It's amazing how even "non-Christian" countries are jumping on the Christmas band wagon. We were in China for Christmas a few years ago and couldn't believe how they have adopted the holiday also.

It's so hard to fight the whole world and stand on your convictions. Good for you.

The thing I admire the most about Jews is how they teach their children all the time about their belief. I'd say Jews spend more time teaching and living their belief system to their children than anyone (on the whole). What a gift. If all our kids were taught with this same dedication the world would be a much different place.

adrienne said...

I don't know how many times I've told my kids we don't do things just because everyone else does. But that's a tough one - we do celebrate Christmas and I still get sick of seeing it everywhere I go.
Maybe the teacher meant well - it might have been her way of saying everyone celebrates in their own way.

Valarie said...

Hmmmm this is a tough one....I am gonna have to think on this one. It is so hard to explain stuff like this to little ones, especially with all the commercialism that goes on with Christmas.

Brandi said...

Wow Suzie, what a touching post. I think you just need a daily cup of GO to keep sticking to your guns. It will be exhausting but it will pay off and Little B will LOVE you for it. Good parenthood is not easy - suit up and slay Santa!

April said...

it's funny. i grew up in south florida surrounded by jewish people. i was SO VERY JEALOUS of hannukah. EIGHT DAYS?! we only got one :-/ just keep talking up hannukah... and tell him about the sad little girl in south florida who always wanted a hannukah bush. haha :-)

p.s. hubs and i are atheist and we totally celebrate Xmas. LOL. no crosses or church or jesus. we just celebrate family, with lights and santa and stockings. not sure what that says about me, but i thought i'd put it out there.

Rebecca Ramsey said...

Aack. How frustrating!
I'd love to let go of Santa as well, and I'm a Christian. When we lived overseas it was so refreshing to see Christians celebrate it as a religious holiday--and not get caught up in the hoopla/madness of gimme gimme.

I admire you for teaching your son to follow your faith. I'm trying to do the same with my kids, but it sure isn't easy!
Hang in there!
Becky

Chris Cavendish said...

That really opens my mind about Christmas. I was raised with trees and a Baptist Church.

I am of Christian faith, but I often wander why people claim they are of my faith and belong to the same organizations, but are still doing their own thing.

We have to dig deep and stand up for what we believe.

In the end, your faith is more of an asset than "going along for the ride with the in-crowd".

Stick to your faith.

Paul and Michele said...

I don't even know how we are going to handle this as August gets older. We are agnostic and don't celebrate anything, but Paul's parents (also agnostic/atheist) like to do the Christmas thing--presents, a tree, lots of wine. Nothing religious at all, and not at all about Christmas. Will August come to expect gifts every year? Probably. We still have to figure out how to handle this and what he should/shouldn't expect. I guess I have no real advice on this other than what others have said--stick to your faith and beliefs, and hopefully it will all click. And yes, you call tell that teacher what she can do with that tree, mainly because I like a good catfight.

Not Your Aunt Bea said...

That is a toughie. And hey, it's another creative use for a Christmas tree.

Erin said...

That is rough. It's like living in the world, but not of the world. I have a Christian friend who dropped the whole Santa thing when her kids were young, and every year they took a family vacation at Christmas time. Looking back, her kids never would have remembered the presents, but the remember the memories of the time spent with family! Good luck with B.

Jannie said...

hah!

I have certainly seen families with one Jewish parent and one Christmas tree hugging one and they seem to make it work.

But stick to your guns, obviously.

Stick to your menora?

Rona Michelson said...

I went through similar things with my children who were raised on US Army bases where frequently they were the only Jewish children in their schools. We did as you are doing-- emphasized what we have rather than dwelling on why we don't celebrate Xmas. One of the things we told the children is that it's something like when you go to someone's birthday party. It's their birthday and not yours, so you can enjoy seeing it, but it's not yours. We would admire the pretty aspects of the season, but it was always with the acknowledgment that it was not ours and that we had the beauty of our own holidays and observances. Our children never rebelled and they all grew up and are raising their children as we raised them (although for them it's a bit easier now because one by one, we all came to live in Israel:-)

Peter said...

You could always educate the little ones on the decidedly non-Christian origins of Xmas, ensuring years and years of arguments with his Christian friends.

Kate Coveny Hood said...

I think you should rent an armadillo suit as a fun way to tell B all about the festival of lights. Of course - I'm kidding - but I can't resist a Friends reference.

Seriously though - that's hard and I feel for you. What if you came up with a family "holiday" to celebrate on Christmas day that is custom tailored to his favorite things? That's about as creative as I can get today...

I feel for you. But even though it's hard to make your child feel deprived in any way - I agree that it's important to keep your own religious holidays special and not overshadow them with all of the Christmas commercialism.

Vered - MomGrind said...

I wouldn't say anything to the teacher but would be firm in what I say to my child. It's not the last time they will get mixed messages from you and from the school.

We make a big deal out of Hanukkah. It seems to help.

Vodka Mom said...

I recommend you DO tell her where to put her Jewish Christmas tree. DO IT.

Sandra Evertson said...

Fabulous writing!
Sandra

Veronica said...

I thought everything had gotten so politically correct that teachers weren't allowed to say stuff like that!

So yes, tell her where she can stuff that tree.

We are THAT Family said...

This is hard. But the world is full of mixed signals. As Christians, my kids are bombard by the media with so many things we don't agree with or believe in. And many of them are directed towards children and labeled 'fun.'

We are teaching our kids that we don't have to be like everyone else. It's hard and I feel bad for them sometimes, but bottom line, we are following our heart and trying to lead by example.

Follow thru with what is important to you and in the end, your children will only respect you.

Annie said...

Ugh. This sucks. As long as Christmas is going to be so commercialized, there's going to be no way of getting away from that for your little B.

Stick to your guns - I applaud you for not celebrating Christmas too "just because everyone else is".

As for the teacher? I would ABSOLUTELY tell her that you find it completely inappropriate that she is discussing her friends religion with your child, and in turn, conveying the idea that there's something wrong if you don't celebrate Christmas.

I'd be livid.

Heather said...

I don't have an answer for you Suzie, but I do agree with you about the teacher. She really should just keep her mouth shut.

The Mrs. said...

ouch. what do you do about this. I hope I dont offend anyone, or you, buy saying this, but I respect you greatly because of the fact that you choose not to celebrate christmas. I'm with you, despite its widely seen as one, I dont see it as a secular holiday, its a chance for Christians to celebrate the birth of Christ. I respect that you feel strong enough in your religious convictions to value this. But like I said I certainly hope I dont offend someone or you, by saying that. I didnt mean it like that. (the worlds gone PC mad I'm always afraid of insulting someone!)

I dont have much advice with your situation. I'm sure his teacher meant well but it would upset me as well. Why cant teachers just stick to ask your mom!

Madge said...

Suzie, that's a tough one, I really admire you for sticking to it. stay true to yourself and your kids will be proud of you and their heritage.

Chimera said...

Oy Vey. Christmas, schmistmas. Tell him if he's not careful you will convert to Jainism.
T x

Kmommy said...

LOL! It probably would not be the best thing to tell that teacher what she can do ;) But it was quite wrong of her to entice your son like that!

Cat said...

OH MAN. What a tough spot. I don't know. I had a good friend in school, a Jehovas Witness, and she wasn't allowed to celebrate ANYTHING, including her birthday. I would make her hards and sneak them in her locker, and she'd have to throw them away so she wouldn't get in trouble at home.

Stand your ground. If you feel your son's teacher is making that more difficult, than I say talk to her!

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honeywine said...

I'd speak up! One holiday is enough trouble.

tiff said...

I think a pointy star on top of that tree might do wonders to change that teacher's story...

April said...

Sometimes I really wonder why we can't just lock them in the basement.

I admire you for sticking with it. I'm a secular/commercial girl myself.

forgetfulone said...

Wow! I'm so impressed with your resolve. You are doing what's right. I know too many families who are "half" Jewish "half" something else, and they really aren't anything. What you're doing is great.

As for the teacher's Christmas tree... that's a tough spot!

Aunt LoLo said...

If you really, really feel strongly about it...then just stand firm. I'm Mormon - my kids will never date before they are 16, they will never watch R rated movies while they live in my house, and they will never drink caffeinated soda while living under my roof. (That's not necessarily followed by all Mormons, but...it's what I do, so...yeah.) The point is, there are some things that "all the other kids" will get to do, and our kids just won't. That's part of being raised by religious parents!

He'll have to figure out what HE wants to do once he moves out...but for now, he's your "yiddle" baby...and he's got to do as you say. ;-)

Chris Cavendish said...

That's right!

Stand Up for the truth and the truth will stand up for you.

maryt/theteach said...

Suzie, are you a religious Jew? If not strip religion out of both Chanukah and Christmas (like Queen-sized funny bone and a couple of others say) and celebrate both. For kids, it's so hard not to be like everybody else. That teacher is so stupid. Dreidels (sp?) and snowmen, have a party and invite classmates over, incorporate it all together. Chanukah presents wrapped in blue and gold and christmas presents wrapped in green and red. Do a Chanukah and Christmas blog to get ideas for the party. And keep religion out of it. The school has to keep religion out of it too. Call the party a Winter Holiday Party...

Or do exactly what you want to do, your son will get over it... And tell that teacher you'd appreciate her keeping her opinions to herself!

maryt/theteach said...

Suzie, are you a religious Jew? If not strip religion out of both Chanukah and Christmas (like Queen-sized funny bone and a couple of others say) and celebrate both. For kids, it's so hard not to be like everybody else. That teacher is so stupid. Dreidels (sp?) and snowmen, have a party and invite classmates over, incorporate it all together. Chanukah presents wrapped in blue and gold and christmas presents wrapped in green and red. Do a Chanukah and Christmas blog to get ideas for the party. And keep religion out of it. The school has to keep religion out of it too. Call the party a Winter Holiday Party...

Or do exactly what you want to do, your son will get over it... And tell that teacher you'd appreciate her keeping her opinions to herself!

Quinty said...

The whole Santa thing puts me off too, but actually because I AM Christian...!
To me Christmas is the celebration of the humble birth of a great thinker, and everything around it should be about sharing, about building bridges to those further away from us, and about love for those around us.
But Santa Claus in his current form is a creation of advertising (seriously, look it up!), and the commercial decadence surrounding it all has nothing to do with Christianity.
(So, looking at it that way, you might just as well bring in the tree and the stockings! :P But good that you don't, of course. ;-) )

IB said...

Great post; cool blog.

When I was a kid Christmas was cool. When my son was little, Christmas was cool. Now, not so much. I'm not a religious person and find the whole thing rather absurd: not in it's original concept but in the reality of what has happened to a simple religious observance.

If you want a holiday that still has some meaning, one that we can ALL celebrate, regardless of religious identity or affiliation, try Thanksgiving. That's my favorite. Food, friends, family and football. What's not to love?

IB

http://idiotsstew.blogspot.com

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