Sunday, December 29, 2013

Xmas Makes Me Believe

I grew up believing in a lot of things. I believed that an overweight man in strange clothes spied on me throughout the year and then rewarded good behavior by breaking into my family's home through inexplicable means and leaving a pile of presents and a stocking of sweets. On a more serious note, I was raised to believe that the holiday was really all about the birth of a Jewish man, a story replete with details that required an even bigger leap of faith.

I thought that I would be leaving Xmas far behind by converting to Judaism, but I was wrong. There's no escaping it. Jews of all persuasions seem just as preoccupied with it as my goyishe family, though for different reasons. How do we prevent Jewish children from wanting Xmas? Are Xmas traditions for Chanukah ok, e.g. gifts or blue and white lights? How do I handle being wished "Merry Christmas"?

Being a Jewish convert during the holiday season is no easy feat, but I have come to believe Xmas can be used to strengthen my Judaism, not weaken it. I don't regard it as a coincidence that the Jewish holiday that commemorates resisting assimilation lands on the calendar right around the time everything gets hyper holly jolly.

People on both sides have a hard time believing I don't miss Xmas. It helps that I never had a tree in any of my residences after leaving home and I hate most of the music with a passion. That being said, it's easy to take things for granted when they're a regular part of your life. Several months after beginning my conversion studies, I approached my first Xmas warily. Would I feel a twinge of regret over giving all this up?

If I wasn't fully sure I had what it took to be a committed Jew, that first Xmas made me believe. In the art and fashion worlds, juxtaposition is often used to make certain details "pop." Xmas makes my Judaism "pop." The more I know what Judaism is, what I stand for, the less intimidated I am by Xmas. Pretty lights are pretty lights. Magic fades. Myths are outgrown. I choose to believe in miracles.

I believe in Judaism. I believe in its beauty and its strength; no need to gild the lily with traditions that aren't ours. I believe that giving my children an entire heritage is more important than giving them stuff. I believe in resisting assimilation and being proud to be different. I believe in the power of family, because I've remained close with mine despite giving up their holidays. I believe that Xmas is generally good for the world. I believe in my Judaism enough that I can say that. I believe that I can admire certain things about the holiday season, and still be happy and grateful that I left it behind and became a Jew. I believe all these things because of Xmas. It can be the best time of the year to be Jewish, believe me.

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