Growing up Jewish, the holiday season was always a bit different for me.
As one of the few Jews in my elementary school I couldn't help but feel left out from the Christmas festivities that all my school-mates got to partake in. At my house, there was no tree, no church, no Christmas dinners, no stockings hanging above the fireplace, and certainly no presents to open on December 25. I can recall on more than one occasion, telling my friends these details and getting looks of complete shock in return. The concept of no Christmas is understandably a bit difficult for any nine year old to wrap their brain around.
I didn't feel completely out of the holiday loop as my older sister and I instead had Hanukkah, in which we'd receive eight nights of gifts in a row and that, in itself, was a more than adequate alternative. I also had the added bonus of getting to be celebrity for a day when I gave my yearly Hanukkah presentation. I told my classmates the story of the holiday and showed them how to play the Dreidel game.
Interestingly, even though my family didn't actually celebrate Christmas, we still had our own Christmas "tradition" of sorts. For many Jews, Christmas usually includes at least one of the following two activities: Eating Chinese food or going to the movies. Most of the time, they go hand in hand; they did for my family at least. Once my sister and I grew older we added a little variety to the tradition. Sometimes we'd stay in and rent a movie, other times we'd forego the movie altogether and instead play a board game; we never skipped out on the Chinese food though, it just wouldn't have been Christmas without the Chinese food.
Christmas, for me was just as much a time of family and tradition as it was for everyone else, it just didn't include, well, Christmas.
Things have changed a bit now.
It's been a few years since I've been home on Christmas. My girlfriend Katie and her family are Christian and I now spend the holiday with them so there is considerably less Chinese food and more of your typical Yuletide activities, which I gladly partake in.
I still get a little nostalgic from time to time when reflecting on my family's "Christmas" -- the countless movies we watched and how many games of Trivial Pursuit we must have played over the years.
It may seem strange but I've always loved Christmas. I love it for they way it once brought my family together in our own unique way, and now for the way Katie's family has so graciously included me in their traditions - even if they don't include any egg rolls.
Matt Goldman can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.