CHo-CHo-Cho! Tis a jolly time.
It’s Santa time. It is Christmas. We can tell it’s a non-Jewish holiday because it’s so simple. Christmas. It is not Christmas like Challah or Hristmas like Humas or Tchristmas like a chvetchka. Us Jews, why can’t we get it straight, from Chanukah to Chasidim to Hanukah to Hasidim. Well, we know why; we don’t do straight. Cho-cho-cho (as in chocolate.)
I love the stories of religious confusion. Santa and our sages do resemble each other quite a bit. We know of instances when the Santas were thought to be Rabbis and the Rabbis were thought to be Santas and worse, the Rabbis were thought to be Rabbis. Goyim thinking Jewish rabbis have flying reindeer is plausible, but that they give presents instead of take presents is a hoot. Nathan Englander has an excellent story of a Jewish man who worked as Santa for a while to earn a living.
I’m not into white-bearded big men with religious sanctity, but oh, how gorgeous Christmas lights at night are. On snowy days, driving around at night is so special. As a child, Christmas decorations always reminded me of Sukkos, one of my favorite Jewish holidays. When we went to Brooklyn in our fifteen passenger van my mother would warn us to say tefiles haderech and not to look at the “goyish lights”. With that warning, how could you not?
Last year, for our class at Sarah Lawrence on the Holiday week, I came bearing samplings of my favorite recipe of cheese and potato latkes (as I did this year). When I arrived I found, behold, right where I am supposed to sit, a little red sock with white trimming and my name on it. I hadn’t expected to ever see anything like that. I’ve never played nice. I couldn’t help loving the irony that someone left me – me, the Shpitzle lady from yesterday – a Santa sock with my name and a red and white candy cane inside.
I stuffed it with a bunch of Chanukah gelt and it instantly became Jewish. Cha-cha-cha!