For all the years since our conversion I have made a conscious effort to run away from all things Christmas. I did a good job of shutting down all memories of my childhood Christmas experience. I thought I had moved on and by stuffing them down I could ignore them. Since all our Christian relatives were dead it was pretty easy to ignore.
This year, however, I decided it would be ok to have a classical radio station playing while I did my housework - even if it did play Christmas music 3/4 of the time. The other day a simple guitar version with no lyrics of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas" came on. For the first time ever since our conversion over a decade ago I sat still for those 3 or 4 minutes and allowed my mind to drift back to my childhood Christmas memories - all the simple little things that were good about the holiday. It was like a power point presentation in my mind - frame after frame of snapshots slowly fading into view. There was the plaster of Paris snowman, reindeer and Santa's sleigh my grandfather in Long Beach installed on his roof each year, the antique porcelain dolls that had been my parents from their own childhoods that we put on the tree, the stockings we had for our dogs, the jello mold my mother made each year, the Bing Crosby recording of White Christmas that was required listening for the weeks before Christmas. Dozens of little flashbacks.
Tears poured down my cheeks and it felt quite cathartic to think about. This quiet little solitary trip into my Christian past was not about religion - but about family connections, traditions, sights/smells/tastes that recurred year after year. have created these same memories for my own Jewish children - wonderful Jewish holiday memories. Just as I remember squirming in my seat during Midnight Mass and long Easter services in my childhood Lutheran Church, my own kids will remember long days at Shul during High Holy Days. They will also remember lighting the menorahs, Seders with friends, our annual Christmas eve Chinese feast and movie with our chavurah and much, much more. I think every year at Christmas I am going to set aside 5 or 10 minutes to be alone and think about my childhood Christmases and allow myself a good cry. Tears of joy, happiness, loss, sadness. I don't really miss Christmas. I miss the people, now all gone, I used to spend it with. Then I will spend the rest of the holiday building closer ties with my Jewish friends and thinking about how to make all the Jewish holidays more memorable for my own children.