Monday, April 18, 2011

Easter? No, Thanks. I Think I'll Passover That One.

I'm a bad Jew. There, I fully admit to it and am quite willing to state it as fact before anyone with strong opinions feels the need to do it for me.

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?"
"Why not?"
"...I'm Jewish."
"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!


  1. I share your annoyance, perhaps for the same reason, but under completely different circumstances. I am annoyed at the presumption of Christianity and the presumed celebration of Christian holidays. Questions like, "What are you doing for Easter?" make me want to lash out about the Pagan roots and symbols of their so-called Christian holiday. Then I remember, they're just making conversation...not a political statement. :-) Meanwhile, I completely enjoy the peanut butter-filled chocolates and caramel-filled cadbury eggs. I also put up a fabulously decorated "martha stewart" tree (as my friends and family call it) each Christmas. I also put up a menorah. I can't decide on a tradition to celebrate, I guess. :-)

  2. A few years ago when I was at work and our bosses lined up and handed out the holiday bonus checks. At first they said happy holidays which was much appreciated by me since I celebrate Yule rather than Christmas. After a few people one of higher ups who is Catholic declared loudly "I know were supposed to say happy holidays but screw that I'm saying merry christmas." His comments that followed indicated that anyone offended should be celebrating christmas anyway. The rest of us got merry christmas greetings.

    It felt much like the angry "merry christmas!" I get in response from people when I say "happy holidays" sometimes, where they are less wishing you happy greetings and more making their displeasure known that you didnt give them the greeting they think everyone should give.

    There does tend to be an attitude that everyone should celebrate the holidays of the majority.

    I celebrate Yule and Ostara but I will still attend celebrations of Christmas and Easter. When I do there is a different feeling the one has meaning the other doesnt. I can definitely see where your coming from on avoiding opening yourself to the "whats the difference" response.

    I would say celebrate what you want how you want it, no one but you can give them permission to make you feel inferior or wrong. Being consistent might help avoid some annoying attempts by people to 'catch' you however.

  3. Great post, Aar. I love ^^^ that response, MeAndYou. But, I also think the key is that Christianity is robed in proselytization (regardless of whether or not its affiliates do, or not).

  4. Thanks for the feedback guys, but let's try not to take this into an anti-Christian direction. Notice that I never labelled my three challengers as Christian.

    Remember that Christmas and Easter are popular, fun holidays that are celebrated by Christians and the unaffiliated alike. :-)

  5. Pfft...that kind of distinction is almost as funny as when two of my co-worker "gave up" eating certain things for Lent. Uhm, they aren't even Christian! I'm sorry, but if you're not of a Christian sect that observed Lent, you're simply on a diet like the rest of us who avoid bad foods for a period of time. Way to insult those who actually observe lent.


    It's also funny, a co-worker asked me what I was doing for Easter, similar to above, and when I told her nothing, she's like, NOT EVEN PAINTING EGGS?? Sigh. Could we get a diversity trainer up in here?

  6. i appreciate these someone who also struggles with religion. would like to see pics of your seder!

  7. Thanks! I would gladly share, but unfortunately there are no photos to speak of. We were so busy with work, life, etc...that this was a VERY low-key seder. We had the plate, we had the Haggadah, and we had our PJs on. lol. Next year, I promise!