I love the Holidays. I'm not one of these Grinches who complains about being sick of Christmas music or the commercialization of Christmas or how Chanukah isn't actually one of the major Jewish holidays.
Growing up with a Jewish father and a converted-Jew mother, we observed both Christmas and Chanukah, which, contrary to what some of my gentile friends once thought, is not "the Jewish Christmas." ("No, seriously," I'd say to people in my dorm at college, people who had never met a real, live Jew before, "We don't celebrate Christmas. Not even a little bit.") This meant two things: one, that I was pretty much the only kid at Hebrew school with a Christmas tree at home, and two, I had to disappoint the managers of the few retail jobs I've had in my life with the news that I could not, actually, work on Christmas because I do need to be with my mother's family that day and yes, I will need BOTH the first night of Passover AND Easter Sunday off.
This past weekend we took the Juban Princeling, who is half-Jewish and half-Cuban, to see Santa. We went to Macy"s Herald Square because that's where the real Santa lives because Macy's invented Christmas. Despite getting to the store at 9:30am on a Saturday, just one and a half hours after they opened, the line to see Santa was already nuts. Since the Princeling is a toddler and has the attention span of, well, a toddler, we had to find ways to keep him entertained before being allowed into "Macy's Santaland," which is sort of like what I imagine my college friends experienced when they dropped acid at Disney World once. Lots of bright lights, lots of animatronics, lots of colors and things and people. And like Disney World, there were people in costume whose job it was to simply stand there. No joke: we saw several "elves" standing on boxes and just...standing there.
We finally got to see "Santa," who apparently lives in a "village" full of tiny houses with elves viciously guarding the doors. Right now the Princeling is too young to care, but I have no idea what we're going to do one day when he asks us what the other houses are all about. "Um....elves live there. Now eyes forward and mouth shut!"
Now, I know that better parents and writers than I am have taken issue with this in the past, but I do have to bring this up: Christmas is really the only time of year when we let total strangers manhandle our babies. Despite the fact that I knew that our Santa had makeup on, he still struck me as being half-drunk, half-striken with Swine Flu. Our family photo with him looks like he's about to keel over. Yet we still not only let this man near our precious baby, but we put our baby ON HIS LAP.
I often make fun of my brother, Mr. Funny, for having obsessive-compulsive disorder, but this is one time when I think Mr. Funny's Purell habit would really come in handy.
The Princeling was a champ, and barely cried at being shoved off to some stranger with a face full of fake grey hair and a retina-zapping bright red suit in a tiny hut with flashing lights. Last year the Princeling was still only two months old when we took him to see Santa, and the photo we got is of a screaming, hysterical baby in red and white footie pajamas being held at arm's length by a terrified looking Santa. By comparison, this year's photo of a frightened-looking toddler in corduroy reindeer overalls and a half-dead Santa is an improvement.
Christmas 2008. I don't know who is more terrified here: the Princeling, or Santa.
But the fun doesn't end there, oh no. For the privilege of owning an actual memento of this happy event I got to wait in line for nearly half an hour and shell out $10 per photo. Because despite the fact that we brought our own camera, which Santa's "elves" used to snap photos of us, somehow - somehow - those photos don't come out nearly as nice as the official Macy's Santaland 2009 photos do. Those photos look like a Norman Rockwell painting come to life; the ones on our camera look like they were taken by a drunk blind person. So we sort of have to buy the Macy's ones.
Anyway, despite all of this, I still love the Holidays. I love the music, I love the decorations, I love baking Holiday-themed cookies, I love Christmas movies (the lamer the better), I love watching 24-hours of "A Christmas Story" on TBS over and over and over again until my husband threatens to shoot my eye out with a Red Ryder BB gun. Now that I'm a mom I love taking my kid to see Santa at the very store where Christmas was born. And some day he'll pass on a very special Holiday family tradition: explaining to his Jewish friends why Santa visits his house but skips theirs.