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How To

A Chosen Christmas

Gentiles avoid guilt all year round—that is, until Christmas, when familial anxiety is at its peak. So don’t drown your sorrows in another mug of eggnog; CLAUDIA BROWN has tips for how she and her Jewish brethren might help those who are freaking out this holiday season.

Every December, as gift commercials flood the airwaves and gift anxieties send otherwise mellow friends into insurmountable credit-card debt, I climb atop my Jewish ivory tower and chuckle with sinister glee.

Christmas really is my favorite time of year, for while even the blackest sheep of any family scrambles to please and fit in, all I have to do is lick a free and readily available candy cane and pat that poor sheep on the back, whispering, “It will all be OK.” After all, Christmas is the only time of year that you gentiles are overwhelmed with worry and guilt while we Jews get to sit back and enjoy the sleigh-bell ride.

But! There are plenty of Christmas traps just waiting to ensnare us Jews. They are everywhere, like cracks in the sidewalk, and we must avoid them—or at least hover lightly above them so that we might seek their pleasures while avoiding their pains.

Christmas at the Boyfriend’s Parents’

It’s your first Christmas together and your gentile boyfriend is looking at you with remorse and pity, shaking his head. “You poor lonely Jew,” he says, “What will you do on Christmas? Eat Chinese food? Then stick sharp pins in your eyes from the sadness of a life without Santa?” “Yes” to the Chinese food and “yes” to life without Santa. But the next day you will show up at your boyfriend’s apartment with a Santa suit all ready for him to put on. You will then sit on his lap and tell him all your fondest wishes. Then, when he asks you to go home with him for Christmas, you will laugh in his face and tell him you’d rather stick pins in your eyes.

“What about Hanukkah?” he will ask you. “Aren’t you gonna go see your family on Hanukkah?”

“I don’t even go see my family on family reunions,” you will explain. “I stopped seeing them on Hanukkah after the age of 15, when I stopped getting gifts because I now had nephews younger than me.” That’s the bummer about Hanukkah: Only the youngest get the dough. The rest of us eat our potato pancakes and applesauce in mute cheerless silence. Oh, somebody might spin a dreidel listlessly, as we all sadly recite the dreidel song, and that will be it. Not exactly worth the airfare.

Besides, you will be looking forward to Christmas Day, when the best thing to do is be alone, take a long walk through your eerily ghost-like town, come back with a nice big appetite for Chinese food, and then watch movies. But a word of advice: You might want to avoid The Passion of the Christ.

Christmas Cards

As the fake birthday of Jesus approaches, your mailbox will become a cornucopia of Christmas cheer—all soft-focus photos of babies and Christmas-associated plant-life—good, clean, handwritten wishes for your non-existent celebration. Some will even suggest that you have yourself a good Hanukkah, even though they didn’t send you a card on your holiest of holies, Rosh Hashanah, or your second holiest of holies, Yom Kippur. In fact you will want to know: Where was your Yom Kippur card when you were starving yourself and atoning for your sins? Still, you will ponder sending thank-you notes or some incredible, handmade holiday card of your own.

Then you will realize that all these cards are doing is filling up your paper recycling bin way faster than usual, and it is really kind of a pain in the ass to take the recycling down, what with having to open your building’s garage with a key and walk all the way to the end of it, and then find the appropriate bin and haul your recycling bin all the way back up to your apartment. No, it’s not one of those jobs you can do “on your way out the door,” because there’s the little matter of taking the bin back up to your place, OK? And you hate that.

Company Christmas Parties

If you work in an office, your company will hold not one or two, but a myriad of Christmas events: There will be the “Holiday Gift-Swap,” the “Inter-Departmental Holiday Cheer,” the “Multi-Divisional Holiday Meetup,” the “Twenty-Ninth Floor Holiday Social,” and the “Design Department Chocolate Chomping Marathon.” These events are actually blessings in disguise. Manna from heaven. An excuse to not do any work, get drunk on the job, and make out with coworkers in the bathroom.

As far as these gift exchanges, you will purchase a copy of Healing the Shame That Binds You and pitch it into the Secret Santa box. The book is, appropriately, all about family bonds: in particular, the bond of toxic shame, without which your coworkers wouldn’t be in an hourlong line at J.C. Penney buying lambswool slippers for everyone in their families—drunk out of their minds.

Back at the party, when the recipient of this healing journey secretly starts to read your gift in the bathroom stall after buckets of eggnog and sex with coworkers, the words will fill him with the warm Christmas ring of truth. And when this poor soul cries like a newborn baby upon your Balenciaga blouse (which you could afford because that book was on sale), you will just pat him sweetly on the head and whisper, “It will all be OK.” You will also make a mental note to bill him for the dry cleaning.


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You see, we Jews may be thrifty, but we are not without heart. We feel your pain, gentile giants, for we experience family guilt every other day of the year. But this, this is your time to shine, to bestow many riches upon your brethren and to receive their fruitful bounty in return. It is a time to sing, eat, and sob hysterically in the bathroom. And if you need us, we will be here, through mouthfuls of Chinese food, shouldering your emotional pain upon our Chosen shoulders, but laughing all the way to the bank of debt-free living.

Claudia Brown published her first short story at the age of 16. During college and in New York, she also experimented with painting, video art, graphic design, and fashion design. For the last several months, she has changed course and moved to the lush and peaceful Portland, Ore., where she has returned to her writerly roots. She is currently working on a novel and a series of short stories. More by Claudia Brown