He’s making a list. He’s checking it twice. He’s gonna find out who’s naughty or nice. These words have very different meaning these days, none of them good. Some years, I write my usual thoughtful and inspiring note on Christmas. Other years, there is little to add. And, of course, some years, I’m reduced to writing gibberish.
Do this long enough and you feel a visceral sense of going nowhere fast. As I’m wont to do, I check the New York Times in the morning, and I did so this morning to see what they had to contribute to the Christmas spirit, to peace on earth and goodwill toward man. What I found was an op-ed by the editorial director of The Times’s Reader Center, Hanna Ingber, about Christmas trees. Well, not really about trees, but her feelings because no one writes about things anymore. Just their feelings about things.
My Jewish Sons Have a Christmas Tree, and I Need to Deal
I have always associated my identity with not having Yule decorations. Divorce has a way of changing everything.
Her op-ed doesn’t get any less narcissist.
My husband and I began to fight regularly over having a tree after our children arrived. Though he was raised in California as a Hindu, he said that decorating a tree was among his happiest childhood memories, that it symbolized home and family. I countered that a tree in our living room felt so unsettling, so out of place, so unbearable.
One can have a tree or not, but what would make someone feel that a tree was “unbearable”? Putting aside her need to tell the world of her divorce, because it’s particularly special, it informs her identitarian trauma, which she also feels compelled to tell.
Being Jewish is about holding on dearly to one’s sense of self, even if it means secretly lighting Shabbat candles in the basement or having classmates throw pennies at your feet. Or just not getting to sit on Santa’s lap.
Is there anything more Christmas than complaining about childhood feelings of “otherness” that apparently remain unresolved well into adulthood? I’m Jewish. Dr. SJ is not. We have a Christmas tree and we light the menorah. Both are part of my children’s world, and neither comes at the expense of the other. They don’t have to.
Having a Christmas tree doesn’t make me any different than I am, and finding joy in the season doesn’t diminish who I am. Why would it? My existence doesn’t depend on anyone else, and it was always obvious that my religion was a minority one in America. To expect the vast majority to temper, if not hide, its seasonal joy lest it make me feel as if I wasn’t the center of the universe was ridiculous. I’m not. Nor is Hanna Ingber, who unfortunately finds that psychologically unbearable as manifested in a tree.
I love Christmas. I love the songs. I love the tree. I love the spirit, although goodwill toward anyone who doesn’t “look like you” is becoming a precious commodity. Today, my family will go see the new Star Wars movie, another Christmas tradition around here, and afterward drink hot chocolate and eggnog while ripping it to shreds for its many anticipated failings, not the least of which is that it turns out (spoiler alert) that Luke is transgender.
It’s sad that Hanna Ingber gets triggered by a tree in her living room, and is so intolerant that she finds it unbearable. It’s not at all surprising that she’s getting divorced, given her issues. As one Jew to another, I wish her Merry Christmas, tree and all, and the capacity to enjoy the season if not Handel’s Messiah. And to everyone reading today, I wish you Merry Christmas as well, no matter what identity or combination resides within you, because it’s a wonderful time of year. Or at least, it should be.