Ever since I was two years old, I’ve lived on the corner of an intersection, where the three other corner families were also Jewish. My neighbors on the left introduced themselves to my parents as the “Shabbat goyim” and ever since then, have faithfully come and shut off the oven that was accidentally left on for Shabbat and has always delivered “traditional Purim baskets” anonymously to our door. My siblings and I always knew which Mishloach Manot were from those friendly Catholic neighbors, and always gave them Mishloach Manot in return.
I’ve grown up in a community with tremendous respect for all religions, and I felt extremely lucky to be Jewish. But somehow, every December, we’d drive around town and pass by all the houses with the beautiful, sparkling lights, and I’d always be just the tiniest bit jealous that all the Christian houses looked so much prettier than mine. I have no interest in the religious elements of Christmas – no Jesus and Mary in the manger for me – but I’ve always loved everything else about Christmas: the lights, festive toy catalogs and the good cheer – no matter how contrived.
As an eight-year-old, I was always told that we have our physical aspects of Judaism as well, such as lighting a Menorah on Chanukah. But the more I thought about it, the more unfair it seemed. I mean, were my parents trying to compare at most eight little flickering flames to the dazzling bright stars draped over houses and trees?
At twelve, I started shopping with my friends at the mall (mostly at Target with our moms three aisles over), and I was shocked by the Christmas music playing before Thanksgiving. First of all, it was too early in the season. Secondly, what about “I Have a Little Dreidel”? Things still didn’t seem fair.
But now, at fourteen, I’ve realized something else. America celebrates Christmas once a year, so of course, they make it into a whole big deal, but us Jews have something else popping up every month, not to mention Shabbat each week. And sure, Christmas’ red and green go well together, but I much prefer Chanukah’s blue and silver.
Esther Ginzberg is a freshman at Ma’ayanot Yeshiva High School for Girls in Teaneck, N.J.