Monday, December 24, 2007

O Christmas Tree

I just remarked to my husband that my last Christmas tree was probably in 1975, the year before I converted to Judaism. He suggested that we had saved a lot of money over the years. I calculate over $1200 at $40 a tree. I actually have no idea what Christmas trees cost these days.

I distinctly remember lying awake at night worrying not about changing my religion so radically, but about giving up Christmas and especially my Christmas tree. About the only home religious rituals I had were centered around Christmas.

It’s funny that never since that time have I actually missed the tree. I’ve always enjoyed looking at how my Christian friends decorate their trees, but there is no envy.

My daughter, on the other hand, begged for a tree for years. She still remembers the Christmas we spent with my parents, when she and her brother got to decorate the Christmas tree.

I am still occasionally asked if I miss Christmas when people find out that I was a Christian for the first 27 years of my life. I tell them in honesty the only thing I miss is the music. For many years I sang in the National Presbyterian Church choir. Our annual candlelight service was the highlight of the year. I remember with goosebumps when the octet I sang in opened the service with an a capella version of “O Come, O Come Emanuel.” I no longer sing in that choir, but I remember all the words and I sing along with the radio.

Just today I was thinking that I actually have the best of both worlds. I have the experience of celebrating Christmas, of believing in Santa Claus until I was 10 years old. But today I can leisurely shop for the handful of Christmas presents I give. I can make a few cards for special friends. I can be a guest at someone else’s Christmas dinner. But no one expects me to do a thing! It doesn’t get much better than this.

I did carefully wrap the ornaments from my childhood and store them in the basement. Statistics would say that one or both of our children is likely to end up with a non-Jewish partner. They may choose to carry on their grandparents’ tradition.

Tomorrow I will celebrate Christmas as Jews around the country do – go out for Chinese food and a movie.

Soon thereafter the trees of this year having served their purpose and lost many of their needles will take their place at the curbside waiting to be picked up and turned into sawdust.


Blogger Kristin said...

I know a lot of people going out for Chinese food and a movie. I can definitely appreciated that, as I sit around my sister's living room by one of many, many trees in her house, opening gifts. I haven't had my own tree in years. They're just so much work.

Have a wonderful day!

5:55 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- Look at Christmas through the eyes of your nieces and nephew and it will all seem worthwhile! Enjoy your time with them in WVa.

I am rather looking forward to "Charlie Wilson's War." Knowing you, you've already seen it!

6:21 PM  
Blogger Ruth D~ said...

Even those of us who celebrate Christmas would love the simplification of the whole over grown holiday. Tomorrow I breathe a sigh of relief . . . what does that say?

10:15 PM  
Blogger media concepts said...

A number of Jewish people have Christmas trees. Considering that you converted as an adult, I'd say you're entitled to one, at least a little one.

1:35 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Merry Holidays, Barbara and Dave!


2:31 AM  
Blogger Barbara said...

RuthD -- It feels good not to need to breathe a sigh of relief! Although I must say when my children were growing up, it was always a relief to get past Santa Claus. Young Jewish children naturally feel cheated!

Matt -- I'm sure I could have lobbied for a Hanukkah Bush and gotten my tree, but it no longer seemed to matter.

Red -- Merry Christmas to you and your family. I look forward to another year of your wonderful writing!

7:25 AM  
Blogger Old Lady said...

Happy Holidays to you.

1:12 PM  
Blogger Kellyann Brown said...

I haven't had a "real" tree for 25 years, since I figured out that living with a pine tree in an enclosed space give me brochitis. I do enjoy other people's trees.

I am married to a muslim man who does not celebrate "Christmas", but does enjoy getting together with family, eating, presents, music. He refers to the holiday as "New Year". Sure, why not?!

Christmas as a religious holiday is practiced (or not) within our hearts. I like the thought that we are fighting a war against light deprivation! Bring on the lights, bring on the spices! :::smile:::

Happy New Year!

1:32 PM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

I have often thought that the Jewish religion would be one that I would easily convert to- Having done so many Jewish weddings (in my carrer as a florist and event planner). It's such a beautiful religion.
But,I do so love the Christmas decorations ( can you tell?), the music (makes me cry everty time)
and don't even get me started on the baking and the cooking.
But I also love Chinese food.
Have a fun day!!!!

3:48 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Old Lady -- The same to you!

Kelly -- I love "a war against light deprivation"! I think all winter holidays are exactly that.

Gewels -- You would probably make the most of any religion and even find unique decorating projects, but it's probably a good thing that you are still celebrating Christmas. You put your heart and soul into it!

Hope yours was merry!

10:25 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

10:25 PM  
Blogger GEWELS said...

Barbara- sounds like you had a great day.
Actually- there are some of the most beautiful menorah's out there. I would love to have one.

10:10 AM  
Blogger Richard said...

You never even consider celebrating it as a "secular" holiday with a tree?

4:49 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Richard -- A tree is not secular to me. It is a religious symbol, just as a piece of matzoh is a symbol of passover.

5:49 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

Ok. Though, for me, matzoh has no religious signifigance.

9:03 PM  
Blogger Mother of Invention said...

Our friends run a Christmas tree darm, a $12 million a year business. They give us a Fraser Fir which would sell for $85. They are beautiful to decorate! My parents always got the cheaper Scotch Pine. I love the look of lights on trees. To me, the season is about The Light.

8:10 PM  

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