Susan's Blog

Monday, December 25, 2006


Well, it’s here. The most anticipated day of the year. So many of you must be feeling so extremely psyched right now (it is 6:59 a.m.). Probably kind of the way I feel waking up on my birthday, which is still my most fun day of the year.

We Jews don’t have a guy like Jesus whom we celebrate like this. Ben was asking me how did Santa get into the mix, and I couldn’t really tell him a whole lot. I hope my readers will fill me in. I think he came out of a tradition in Norway or something. A lot of people rag on Christmas for being not a sincerely religious holiday at all but the beauty of it is, it is a total conglomeration of traditions from all over the place. The tree, I believe, is a German thing, or even a pagan rite; Santa Claus is something from somewhere else; I think the Germans do a thing where they leave out their shoes and they get presents in them — you can see that is similar to the stocking by the chimney bit.

It is disappointing the way commerce gets into the whole thing and makes everyone sick by blowing in Christmas songs as soon as November starts, and commandeering of late autumn, by forcing her to wear red and green for weeks and weeks. Anyone would be tired of that, even with the most fun day of the year attached! But thank goodness red and green has real staying power; it is one of the most beautiful color combos, because of all you can do with red (it can be maroon, fuschia, ruby, scarlet, tomato, purple, and pink). Green; not so much, but it is a perfect foil to red. It knocks blue and white out of the park, that’s for sure; come on, what can you do with white, for God’s sake, except maybe make it silver??

The thing is, though, there’s always a moment — come on, admit it — when you get really psyched hearing those songs in the stores. Even a Jewish girl like me gets a lift in her step, unloading my three boxes of Lucky Charms onto the conveyor belt to “Baby, It’s Cold Out There,” or “Silent Night.”

Maybe I’m luckier than a lot of you because Christmas has no emotional baggage for me. I don’t have to remember when I was little and so-and-so spoiled the whole thing, or how this one or that one is always uptight or bitchy. I don’t have to feel teary about this memory or that. I came to Christmas as a 19-year-old. My first Christmas was with Ned’s family on Cape Cod. They always celebrated with Ned’s stepmom’s family, the McKeys, a large family with a great sense of humor. It took me a while to catch on, and to not feel weird being a Jew among such a deeply traditional, Christian family, (not religiously but culturally Christian) but I eventually realized that their bits and schtick were very much like my extended family’s and now that we don’t see them I find I miss them!

Now they celebrate it in New Hampshire, with just Ned’s father, stepmother, stepmother’s best friend, and Ned’s sibs and spouses. That is fun, too, and it is where we are going today. We’ll eat roast beef, Yorkshire pudding, beautiful desserts, at a gorgeous table with old, old family silver (Ned’s family — the Batchelders — go way back; they actually have a huge old tome called The Batchelder Geneology, with all these Nathaniels who were sea captains, etc., from the 17th and 18th centuries) before those things were fashionable, and name cards with little symbols for each dinner guest, combined with funky theatrical stuff because a lot of them are in the theatre (both from Broadway and now up in New Hampshire, The Barnstormers). Everything is very classy and elegant but also warm.

A long time ago, when I was an angry young woman and went to the Batchelder Christmas, I requested that my kids receive presents that said, “Happy Chanukah” because I didn’t want them to think they were celebrating Christmas. I look back on my intense younger self and try to forgive her for being so afraid of everything. I think now I was just really trying to stick up for myself, afraid I would disappear amidst all the Christmas stuff. I hate feeling invisible. I was afraid that Nat would be confused. (I am smiling as I think about that one.) Or that the boys would prefer Christmas, and not want to be Jews. Seriously, this is a fear that Jews have, of the tribe diminishing, of people leaving the team, of the religion dying out not from gas chambers and pogroms, but from funseeking!

I understand that. I am not so worried anymore. I think my boys will probably choose to be Jews simply because they are raised as such and it is part of their identity. And if they don’t, they will still be who they are and I will love them and adapt, the same way I adapted to Ned’s family traditions.

Now, so many years later, I feel like such a firm part of Ned’s family and I see that there is no disappearing. There is blending. Like Christmas itself: traditions from everywhere. I don’t care what it says on our presents. I just want it to continue to be the same, forever. I suppose that is the way most of you feel in your hearts today, too. You just want to feel the good that is Christmas, lifted out from the overly-chewed-gum feeling imposed on you by our Krazy Kulture, and to always be able to look forward to it being pretty much the same, every year, elves and all.

Enjoy! Be happy.


Have a great day Susan. It’s about the blending isn’t it?

Three boxes of Lucky Charms? I’m coming over with my own bowl and spoon!

— added by Anonymous on Monday, December 25, 2006 at 9:40 am

Susan, I can relate to your fear of “disappearing” because I’m from another country and I don’t want my son to only cherish the American traditions (from his Dad’s part of the family). But in the end the choices will come naturally, the kids just need exposure to both cultures, they’ll take the best of both, I believe.

— added by leila on Monday, December 25, 2006 at 12:58 pm

I started a new tradition for us this year — we actually have stockings for everyone (Lands’ End rocks!) and this came as a big surprise for my husband. A very delightful one — it meant more to him to have stockings than it did to me, it seemed like, and I figured getting that set up was the least I could do for him.

(And I was afraid he might end up spending Christmas in the hospital, I took him to the ER Friday night, I’m so grateful his mother and brother were both here to mind the kids, it’s a nasty gastrointestinal thing but he’s recovering and he’ll be fine in another week or so. But we’ve had entirely too much excitement here in the past week, and I will be glad when the kids are back in school and things are down to the usual level of *manageable* chaos.)

— added by Julia on Monday, December 25, 2006 at 2:50 pm

Hello Susan, I’m a faithful daily reader of your blog and I love it. You remind me of an actress on the TV show “HOUSE”. Here’s the link to her info:
of course I’ve never met you but I think you would be like her if I ever did. By the way, I love her character. That’s twice I’ve said “love” in this comment field.
We survived our family Christmas but really drained now from all the activity. I’m trying to wrap my head around how to simplify things in the future but the expectations of my mother overrule all other decisions.sigh.

— added by Anonymous on Wednesday, December 27, 2006 at 11:52 pm

actually it’s
i for got the “dot”
my connection to you is my 14 year old son with autism. His name is Connor.

— added by Anonymous on Wednesday, December 27, 2006 at 11:54 pm

Hi DeeDee,
I hear that! Sometimes we just find it easier to take the path of least resistance, but that doesn’t make it “easy.”
Thanks for the compliment — that actress is familiar to me (I don’t watch House) and quite beautiful, and only 40!

— added by Susan Senator on Thursday, December 28, 2006 at 6:56 am