Being Jewish at Christmas

A photo of children helping rebuild in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2006, part of a project called Katrina's Jewish Voices.

A photo of children helping rebuild in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2006, part of a project called Katrina’s Jewish Voices.

I try to fit in at this time of the year, I really do.  I send cards, make gifts, do the cookie baking and wish people the best Christmas ever, however, being a Jew at Christmas when Hanukkah has already past is just different.  Everyone is happy, glorifying in the family they will see and the friends that will most probably call, but, for Jews, it is just another day. 

My husband and I have a routine that has gone on for quite a few years.

On Christmas, we too make the day special for us. We get Chinese take-out food followed by going to a movie.  This system seems to work out well and stems the “Christmas” pushes we sometimes do feel.

When my children were young, I often worried that they felt too different.  I did try to stress to my boys that even though we did not celebrate the tenets of Christmas we could apply the “spirit” of this time.

In December, we did mitzvot (good deeds) in volunteering at a pantry or soup kitchen; visiting older folks in nursing homes; and donating old toys or money to various charities.

Combining the volunteerism and the Jewish value of tikkun olam -repairing the world through selfless activities- with the Christmas message of bringing joy has become a sort of tradition for many Jews during this holiday season and the yearlong.

Oh, but on Christmas Day before the movie and Chinese food, our reward is knowing that we too have brought joy to the less fortunate and helped to make our world a bit nicer by going out and helping.

Isn't that what this season is about, no matter your affiliation?  So remember to put on that list, next year, not only the presents you are going to get and for whom, but remember to volunteer in your community because that is the best gift you can give – yourself!

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