Are Jews Doomed to Lose the War on Jewish Christmas?

On this Christmas eve, the most important article of the day is undoubtedly this piece by Daniel Drezner on a deeply disturbing development in American society, namely, the War on Jewish Christmas:

Chinese food and a movie. Perfectly pleasant rituals, made special by the fact that the Gentiles are all at home or at church. After a month or two of listening to Christmas music blasted everywhere, after weeks of avoiding malls and shopping centers because of frenzied Christmas shopping, finally the Jews can emerge and just enjoy a simple ethnic meal and a movie with the other minorities that make help make this country great.

No longer.

I don't know when it became a thing for Christian families to also go see a movie on the day commemorating the birth of Jesus, but personal experience tells me this is a relatively recent phenomenon – i.e., the past 15 years or so. All I know is that what used to be a pleasant movie-going experience is now extremely crowded.

This has been my experience, too. When I was a kid, going to a movie on Christmas meant sitting in a theater with maybe two dozen other people. At some point before the start of the show, someone (usually my mother) would say, "I guess everybody here is Jewish!" and the others would smile and nod.

Fast forward to Christmas 2013, when the family and I thought we'd take in the second Hobbit movie. We got literally the last tickets available and ended up sitting in the front row, which makes for a less than satisfying experience. Not since Moses led the Jews from their oppression in Egypt has such suffering and woe befallen my people.

But seriously, the outsider experience of Jews in America is something that can at times be relished. I was fortunate enough that by the time I came around, though anti-Semitism was a continuing reality,  it was not something that impinged on my life in any meaningful way. I may have heard the occasional anti-Semitic remark from a classmate, but it wasn't like I couldn't get into the college of my choice because of a quota. The benefits that white skin affords have been mine no less than my Christian friends.

But Christmas is the time of year when Jews are bombarded with reminders that at least in some ways they are not part of the dominant American culture. And Jewish Christmas is a wonderful way to acknowledge that while bestriding the cultural borders. It's public, not secret. It's about taking pleasure, not bemoaning one's minority status or begrudging the majority its own rituals. Indeed, the majority's rituals enabled the Jews to make theirs. The fact that Christians stay home is what makes Jewish Christmas possible.

But because there's nothing substantively Jewish about it—it isn't like we're dancing the horah before the previews, or the Chinese meal begins with the traditional reading of Sandy Koufax's lifetime stats—Jewish Christmas is vulnerable. Indeed, the only thing Jewish about it is that it's only the Jews participating. Everyone in America can start eating burritos and they're still Mexican, but fill the theater up with Christians, and it's not Jewish Christmas anymore.

But this is America, and everybody gets to do what they want. Far be it from me to tell Christians how to celebrate one of their most important holidays, whether it's in deep contemplation of Jesus's message of peace, or by sitting through Horrible Bosses 2. So how can Jews still enjoy the fellowship of Jewish Christmas? My only suggestion is this: Go to an early show. At least then more of the Christians will still be at home.

 

UPDATE: In the initial version of this post, I referred to Christmas as the "most holiest of days" for Christians. That, of course, would be Easter. Sorry for the error.

 

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