Our conversion to Judaism was a bumpy one. Well, mine was. TJ was apparently sure of himself from Day One. Me, I took some convincing. In the end, I determined that the things I had learned about Judaism over the course of our one year of study were more in synch with how I had always perceived the world than the previous 30 years of not practicing Christianity had been...and moreso than any length of time actually practicing Christianity could ever hope to be.
Christmas was always the sticking point. I've said it before, but it bears repeating: I LOVE Christmas. It was the hardest thing for me to give up, and honestly, if our belongings weren't so late in arriving here in Guadalajara, I'm not sure what would have happened this past holiday season. In the end, I settled for some volunteer work and a friendly meal with coworkers. Nothing to be ashamed about there...nothing except the not-so-secret longing I had for a Christmas Tree surrounded by presents.
I've never understood why it was such a big deal. I mean, *I* know that I only care about the secular aspects of Christmas. Isn't that all that matters? TJ didn't think so, but I thought that I had found my justification when, on the night of our "Introduction to Judaism" class's holiday discussion, I asked the rabbi the following question:
"We're all adults. We know what Christmas is supposed to mean. But nobody here is clamoring for Easter, which is by far the more important of the two holidays in the Christian faith. So why does it matter if we want to hold on to a little Christmas?"
...and she didn't have an answer. She said she would get back to me, but never did. I felt as if I had one that battle.
I was wrong.
Over the course of the past two weeks, as people began making their Easter plans, not one, not two, but THREE separate people have engaged me in the following conversation.
"Are you doing anything for Easter?"
"But you went to Christmas parties, right?"
"Well, then, what's the difference?"
There is no way to credibly respond to such a statement. I'm guilty as charged.
My rabbi may not have had an answer to the Jews-and-Christmas question...but, now, I do. Or maybe she did have an answer, but knew that I wasn't quite ready to hear it.
Jews that allow themselves to get publicly wrapped up in Christmas (in all its secular glory) put themselves at risk of being pigeonholed as bad Jews.
The same people that will gladly tell a Jew in December that it's ok to let himself enjoy a little Christmas cheer because, "hey, we all know it's a nonreligious holiday, anyway" will be right there in March or April letting him know that he's already slipped up, so he might as well enjoy the Easter Egg Hunt and baked ham, Passover be damned because it's not like he consistently practices his faith anyway.
I say none of these things as a criticism against these three people. No, I say it as a criticism against myself. Why would I fault them, when 1) I'm the one that slipped up, and 2) prior to my conversion I would likely have said the same in their shoes?
I don't resent their observation. I embrace it.
It's going to make me a better, stronger, more sensitive Jew.
In related news, TJ and I conducted our first ever self-led Passover Seder this evening....and it wasn't half bad!