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Meredith Fineman

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I'm a Jew Who Celebrates Christmas. So What?

Posted: 12/22/11 01:02 PM ET

I have a confession to make: I'm a Jew who celebrates Christmas. I just didn't realize what a confession that was until recently.

Every year, my family convenes in what I can only describe as a gift-giving brunch (pajama dress code) and with a piece of nature that probably shouldn't reside so close to my mother's nice couch in the living room. It's pretty fun. (And yes, we do Hanukkah too, I guess I'm just a lucky shmuck.)

But to some, the day that we choose to give each other tchatchkes is wrong.

I received what can only be described as a disturbing message today -- an acquaintance of mine sent me an article on why Jews shouldn't celebrate Christmas. It crossed the out-of-line-line into another territory altogether -- one of malice and complete disbelief on my end. But more than that, it made me think about what the holidays mean, and sometimes how much people really get it wrong.

Everyone celebrates Christmas or Hanukkah (or Kwanzaa, or something else), with different shades of meaning, with presents or no presents, with certain foods or no foods, with equal joy because you're freezing and it's almost 2012. That's the beauty and privilege of living in a country with religious and cultural freedom.

Whether you choose the religious, cultural, or religious and cultural aspects, "Holidays" aren't about presents, or mistletoe, or a tree, or a menorah it's about celebrating however you see fit.

This time of year is about tradition: and mine is one too.

My celebration of what I like to call A More Time-Effective Manner of Gift Giving in December (that this year coincidentally falls on Hanukkah as well) has often been looked upon with bit of a surprise to some (surprise is a nice word).

I remember in grade school, my friends were a combination of bewildered and jealous. I got teased about it. But that didn't mean I didn't enjoy the celebration of it -- coming downstairs to hang out with my busier-than-ever family and give each other stuff.

What's interesting, however, is that in 2011, that can be deemed as being a "bad Jew".

I write a Jewish-focused site, TheFFJD, for 20-something women. I am a a part of and leading many Jewish-related event for young people in Washington. I met my adorable boyfriend at a panel put on by the Jewish Federation. I like to think my Bat Mitzvah speech rivaled that of 98% of Romney's utterances (and there were Clinton jokes). I almost pass out every Yom Kippur.

All of that is thrown out of the window by one day of the year when I'm apparently not supposed to be celebrating. (And instead eating Asian food and going to the movies. Because that's more Jewish, right?)

I was on the phone with a client of mine who was sheepish in sharing that he too, 100% Jewish, celebrated Christmas with his family. It was like finding a teammate. "YOU CELEBRATE CHRISTMAS!?" I said. Whereas he initially was holding back about his plans, we spent a while bantering about the joy we feel at this time of year. We were allies in our day with our families.

If that means that mine (and maybe some of yours) is a melting pot, so be it. Just please be careful and don't use a swivel chair to put the Jewish star on top of your tree. One place you don't need to be on Christmas is the Emergency Room.

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