So, as many of you know, I am experiencing Christmas from the outside. As opposed to most of you, who are experiencing Christmas from the inside. NOT that I'm implying that you're in jail, which is a different 'inside' to the one I'm referring to (er... not that there's anything wrong with being in jail (er... actually, there is)).
No, I'm talking about being Jewish at Christmas time, which is an interesting experience, given that most people in Australia are not.
Being Jewish at Christmas time is like waving everyone off to a huge annual party that you're not invited to. You've never been invited to this party, and really have no great interest in going, as you have your own annual party just a couple of weeks earlier*. Still, you do feel slightly wistful when you think about all the goodie bags everyone else is going to get, and wonder vaguely what a real Christmas turkey tastes like.
For those who don't know, Jews don't 'do' Christmas. Jews believe in the existence of Jesus, but do not recognise him as the son of God. So we do not celebrate Christmas, just as people outside the British colonies do not celebrate the Queen's birthday. It is just not relevant to us.
However, in this country, the irrelevance is irrelevant. Because here in Australia, Christmas is EVERYWHERE, and it does feel a little disenfranchising to be so obviously removed from the dominant culture (or, to use a slightly less technical term, it makes you feel kind of left out). This isn't such a big deal for me - I mean, most of my friends are Jewish and none of us celebrate Christmas - however it can be odd for the kids.
All three of my kids are bombarded with Christmas images in the media and in the shops. They are forever being asked what Santa is bringing them, and if they're excited about Christmas. My big kids are old enough to understand, and just smile politely, or say 'we don't celebrate Christmas'. Three year old Boo, on the other hand, has completely bought into the propaganda, asking frequently when Christmas is coming (er, soon) and if Santa is coming down the chimney (er, no). And she simply doesn't understand why we don't do Christmas when iCarly and the Simpsons and Spongebob Squarepants and Shrek and every other significant character in her life (okay, fictional character, but she doesn't quite differentiate at this stage) does.
Still, there are definite advantages to not celebrating Christmas. For a start, I don't have to buy presents for everyone I know, which I can only imagine is excruciatingly difficult and time-consuming and expensive, fraught with the potential for error and hurt feelings. Of course, I don't get presents either, but that's a pay off I can live with (except when I buy Chrissy presents for my non-Jewish friends as a mark of respect, and, as a mark of respect, they don't buy presents for me. In this situation, I'd rather disrespect.).
Furthermore, I imagine that it must be tremendously difficult for many of you to have the wonderful Christmas day that is expected, particularly for those of you from broken or blended families, or who have suffered the death of a loved one. As someone who has lost a family member, I'm kind of glad not to have another formal reminder of her absence.
So what do I actually do on Christmas day? Well, everyone is on holidays so it's a great time to get together with the people I love. When I was young, I used to go to Bondi Beach with a huge group of my Jewish friends, and hang out in the sun with the British backpackers while the rest of the country was inside eating ham. These days, I go to my parents' house on the coast with my husband and kids, and we have a barbeque lunch. There's no tree and there's no presents, but we do buy Christmas crackers because it's fun for the kids. And, whilst there's no turkey or ham or bizarro white desserts, my mum makes a brilliant fruitcake, which we devour with custard, simply because it's yum.
And there's my Christmas on the outside. So a very happy belated Chanukah to all my fellow outsiders (and a generic Season's Greetings to those of other (or no) faiths).
And to all of you celebrating Christmas from the inside, I hope your day is everything you wish for it to be, and you get all the presents you'd want for yourself (with maybe a couple of extras thrown in that you hadn't thought of).
Merry Christmas guys.
*Chanukah, the festival of lights, which admittedly isn't as big as Christmas, but also starts with a 'Ch'