Merry Christmas 2019

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.

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.

58 thoughts on “Merry Christmas 2019

  1. Chris Van Wagner

    Merry Christmas and Happy Christmas Chinese Food! We adopted this dining ritual for Christmas Eve years ago, and our priest son even blesses the dumplings after saying Christmas Eve mass. We cherish it in the same way as do you all of the joyful aspects of the holiday. At Christmas Eve dinner, feelings take a back seat to good lo mein. And now, this video will become part of the ritual, no doubt.

  2. Noxx

    Imagine not only finding your spouses happiness “unbearable”, but feeling compelled to tell everyone about it as well.

    1. SHG Post author

      When narcissism and faux victimhood becomes the coin of the realm, this is what appears in the NYT. What a terrible way to go through life.

    1. SHG Post author

      Atheist seems rather severe. After all, you never know. Merry Christmas, Steve, and thanks for pointing out my daily errors.

  3. Richard Kopf


    Thank you, Scott, for your kindness to me in ways known and unknown to your readers. Please forgive the cultural appropriation, but you are a Mensch despite your protestations to the contrary.

    All the best.


    PS. Somewhere deep in the swamp, a denizen of that fetid place is enjoying relatively fresh roadkill. That makes me thankful as well.

    1. SHG Post author

      Skink has his brand. I have mine. Thank you for being the “real” voice of the federal bench even though it makes the prawfs cry that you won’t hide behind feigned dignity. Imagine, judges are real people? I look forward to your brilliant post between Christmas and New Year’s.

    1. SHG Post author

      If a bear kicks you in the nuts and there’s no one there to video it, does it hurt? Merry Christmas, bear, and may the Dom be with you.

  4. Guitardave

    Scott, All the best for you and yours. Thank you for doing what you do, and for letting a non-lawyer mutton-head like myself hang out here. Everyday is a little bit like Christmas when i click the SJ link every morning to see whats on your mind.
    I hope my musical contributions make up for my for my inability to to hit the tip jar. I do have time and materials laying about, so i made some goofy gifts for you, Chris and Judge Kopf ( and Skink, too, but i need to acquire certain materials for his, so its gonna be another week or so till i get it done). I’ll e-mail you some pics later today so you can ‘open’ your gift today. ( yours isn’t finished yet either, but close enough…)
    Merry Christmas everyone.

    1. SHG Post author

      You give me a gift every day. I look forward to clicking your link every morning. Thank you, GD, and Merry Christmas.

  5. wilbur

    Have never met Santa Claus…yet accept gift from same. (Charlie Chan at the Olympics)

    Just for you. Merry Christmas.

  6. Patrick Maupin

    Ms. Ingber’s abode sartorial
    Allows not objets de arboreal.
    Not one for compromise or accommodation,
    She divorced, desiring self-determination.
    A yearning unmet, due to meddling kids conspiratorial.

    Hanna’s ex-husband is (now) a lucky man.
    Merry Christmas to all!

  7. Kathleen Casey

    My brother-in-law and his wife, maiden name Sussman, in Jersey (now Florida natch) raised their two girls Jewish. We made it to one of the Bat Mizvahs. Wish we could have made it to both. What a party! They had a Christmas tree every year. What’s not to love?? Love doesn’t contract. It expands!

    Your Chinese/movie video is a tradition. Speaking of which I watched Fiddler on the Roof last night. Free on Prime. 🙂 I thought of you. Love expands!

    Merry Christmas Scott!

  8. Elpey P.

    It wouldn’t be Christmas without being able to come here and snark about someone’s comment about a blog post complaining about an article where someone gripes about their struggle with people who enjoy Christmas.

    I mean, it would be like any other day, but the topic wouldn’t be Christmas. Merry Christmas and thanks for not trashing my tripe.

    1. Fubar

      Likewise, my thanks to our gracious host.

      And, to embrace and extend, in our host’s memorable words “the capacity to enjoy the season if not Handel’s Messiah”, a burnt offering:

  9. L. Phillips

    It’s our “off” year for kids and grandkids at Christmas so it just me and the frau. Spent yesterday hiking in the mountains across the valley to watch deer and elk and one very naive jackrabbit, each in their daily routines. Back in the evening to have friends over for dinner. Both of their mothers died this year after long in-home illnesses. We talked about that experience a bit, ate cheddar cheese soup and toasted sourdough bread, then broke out the Uno cards and had a couple of noisy games – much laughter peppered with soft insults. A perfect evening.

    The combination of laughter and mostly soft insults reminded me of SJ. Thank you for the effort you put into this blog. It makes me exercise the muscles between my ears which feels like a good thing at this age.

  10. Jim Tyre

    Merry Christmas, SHG! Since you’ve used already one of my favorite Christmas songs (You know I’m a MOT, you know which one), here’s another classic.

  11. Howl

    Scott, to you and yours, and everyone who visits this Hotel, Happy Hanukkah, Merry Christmas, Happy Solstice . . .
    Peace . . .


    Merry Christmas to you and yours Scott. Hope y’all have a blessed day and best wishes for the coming year.

  13. Dan

    SHG, it bears repeating–Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and thanks for keeping this up. I just hope my rare contributions don’t, on balance, make people stupider.

  14. DanQ

    Our tree, though a bit smaller than Christmas’ past, is somehow a little brighter this year. 2019 is a red-letter year. I was quite ill for the first five months, nearly passing twice. Then selling our 29-year Seattle home for a move Austin, all while landing a dream career-sunset job. The musings here, read almost every day while I was ill, moving and settling in, helped me remain thoughtful, connected, and aware. Existence is a good thing.

    Thank you to everyone. Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year.


    1. SHG Post author

      It never ceases to amaze me how little we know of the people behind the names, the comments, we see. How does one say thank god you survived, and I wish I could have helped somehow? Merry Christmas, Dan. Thank god you survived.

      1. DanQ

        “… and I wish I could have helped somehow? ”

        You did Scott, nearly every day.

        Blessings to you and yours,

  15. Skink

    Sorry to be late. There was reasons.

    A tree harms her Jewishness? Let her try alternating American Christmas with Cuban Christmas. American Christmas is always on Christmas Day. Cuban Christmas can be then, Christmas Eve, Three Kings Day, or a day chosen because a squirrel fell out of a tree. American Christmas is beef. I cook. Cuban Christmas is pork. She cooks. I don’t cook as good, but she gets more maniacal when cooking. Any word from me, no matter how innocuous, tempts an increase in the usual homicidal intention.

    Then there’s the family. Like just about everyone else, I have a set number of siblings; her number is ever-evolving. What could at best be described as a second cousin twice removed or an uncle’s former neighbor is a “sister” for her. There’s deep blue lament if word is not received from one of them. Deep blue lament increases the intention.

    This year was American Christmas. I cooked, but I hid the firearms and brought out only blunt knives. I’m slow, but I learn. As a result, I’m still alive. But I can’t help but think it would have been far better to just go to the Hotel buffet, then take a nap. Switching the knives would have been unnecessary.

    And this woman loses it over a tree? Gimme her address so I can put a nativity scene on her lawn.

    Thanks SHG, Rich, GD–aw, hell–thanks to every one of you that make this here Hotel special. Consider this: there are nearly 50 comments to a post about Christmas, but not one mention of Xmas or other such drivel. Not one dolt made it past the centurion at the gate.

    1. SHG Post author

      The first time I was invited to Christmas dinner at Dr. SJ’s family, they served roast beef along with their traditional fresh ham. When her father brought it out (he did the cooking), her mother asked me if I liked roast beef, and I assured her I did and it looked wonderful. Satisfied, her mother told her father to move it along. He then brought out the fresh ham, and I exclaimed, “wow, I love fresh ham.” It probably wasn’t the smartest thing to say, but I really do love fresh ham.

      Later, during dinner, her much younger brother, an accident, stood behind me staring. I turned and asked why. He told me he was looking for the horns. Dr. SJ denies this ever happened, but it did.

      Merry Christmas, Skink, and glad La Cubana didn’t get her hands on the Sig.

      1. Skink

        Ham is good, but bacon is the perfect garnish for anything with alcohol. This time of year, I make sure there’s at least three pounds of garnish in Casa de Swamp.

  16. Chaswjd

    The fascinating thing is that the author married a man raised as a Hindu and then turned resentful because he had different ideas about the religious traditions he wanted their family to celebrate. She can marry whomever she wants, but sometimes their are consequences to that choice. If she wanted a husband who agreed with her religious vision for raising their children, perhaps she should have married one.

  17. JorgXMcKie

    Perhaps (as an areligious [not atheist] pagan [never baptized] raised in a Evangelical Baptist area), we could separate the sacred and the secular Christmas and let everyone who wants to celebrate one or the other or both?

  18. John J

    Very late comment, but we are a bit slow down here in South Australia. Thank you very much for your great blog. I’m not a lawyer, but I find the US legal system fascinating for reasons that probably require psychiatric help. Your regular fisking of the crazier NYT op-eds is just the tonic for an old liberal, horrified at the incipient totalitarianism of the new left. Happy New Year and may you blog forever.

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