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How Will Santa Know?

Since the ladies of Main Street Musings and Life in the Boomer Lane have shared their experiences of playing dreidel while everyone else was playing reindeer games, I thought I’d throw my yarmulke into the ring and share mine too.

As a child, I knew we were Jewish. Everyone in my family was Jewish. We celebrated Hanukkah and dutifully lit our menorah. My brother and I even had mini menorahs that held birthday candles. This wasn’t because we were devout; it was to prevent the potential fire caused when fighting over whose turn it was to light the candles each night. The only time my math skills were sharp was when I was calculating which one of us got to light more candles. Our presents were torturously doled out, one at a time, for 8 nights. I knew that Santa was a jolly, gift delivering, fat man in a red suit, but understood that he wouldn’t visit my house because we are Jewish. It all made perfect sense to me until I was six years old.

Mini menorahs that use birthday candles prevented many Hanukkah arguments with my brother.

Every child knows that Santa comes down the chimney to leave presents for boys and girls who celebrate Christmas. We didn’t have a fireplace which meant we didn’t have a chimney. Without the chimney as a Santa chute, he had no method of entry, so we never expected him to come to our house. Since none of my relatives had fireplaces either, I believed that only Christian homes had fireplaces and chimneys. That’s how Santa knows not to come to the houses of the Jewish children – no chimneys.

It was a brilliant theory that only a six year old mind could rationalize. My parents turned my world upside down when they added a fireplace to our home. The first December with our new fireplace, I posed a very important question to my parents, “Since we have a fireplace now, does this mean Santa will be coming to visit us this year?”

My parents gave each other a knowing glance. They didn’t want to blow Santa’s cover lest we go to school the next day and blab about Santa’s non-existence to our Santa believing classmates. My mom said “Santa knows that we celebrate Hanukkah and he won’t come down our chimney.”

Always the clever and persistent child, I continued on; there were potential presents at stake here. I needed to be absolutely certain. “How will Santa know we have a Jewish chimney?”

My quick witted father, whose sense of humor I inherited, said, “Our chimney is circumcised. That’s how Santa will know it’s a Jewish chimney.” I didn’t understand his joke at the time, but he answered so definitively that I knew that was the end of the discussion.

Even though we were told that Santa could tell our house had a Jewish chimney and that he wouldn’t visit us, my brother and I still woke up hopeful that Santa had made an error in our favor. Like the good little Jews that we were, we raced downstairs to the fireplace on Christmas morning, just like the kids in all the TV specials did.  To our surprise, we found a small pile of wrapped gifts with a note that said, “Oops! I didn’t realize you were Jewish and I came down your chimney by mistake. Since I was already here, I left you a few gifts. Love, Santa” We gleefully tore at the packages of our Christmas booty in a flurry of wrapping paper to find new coloring books and a fresh box of pointy crayons. It was the best Christmas two Jewish kids could have ever wished for!

**Whatever holiday you’re celebrating this week, I hope it is full of happy surprises, love and laughter.**

About Paprika Furstenburg

I was born with an overly developed sense of humor and poor coordination. The combination of these two character traits has taught me humility and given me the perspective to find the funny in everyday experiences.

53 responses »

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed it. Thanks for subscribing and taking the time to comment 🙂

      Reply
      • No problem! It reminded me a lot of when I was little (although I was in a Catholic household) – one year, my father obviously couldn’t find one of the gifts that I had requested in my letter, and so wrote me a little note to say “sorry, couldn’t find X, but here’s Y”…. the eejit didn’t think I might recognise his hand-writing! 🙂

        Santa was busted!

  1. Pingback: A Spark In The Dark | Thirty Years Of Growing Pain(s)

  2. The Pencil Pirouette

    This is so wonderful. Explaining to a child is the trickiest thing, yet every adult was once a child. Sometimes I wonder the point at which we drop the luxury of innocence and embrace the pragmatism of “reality.”

    Reply
  3. Just out of curiosity… are circumcised chimneys more expensive than non-circumcised chimneys?

    Reply
    • I was too young to have seen the bill for the chimney circumsion, but my guess is that it would be a bit pricey. How many chimney moels could there be in the world? Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Reply
  4. My parents always gave us a book about Israel or some Jewish history thing. That was each year until I had my first non-Jewish boyfriend and pointed out the inconsistency with their desire I should only date Jewish guys with their behavior on Christmas. They swore it was an “everyday” present but we never got one on December 25 again. LOL

    Reply
    • Funny story! My mother used to send me to school with ham and cheese sandwiches on matzah during Passover. Talk about sending a mixed message. Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you’ll be back again soon.

      Reply
  5. What a great story! I hope you are enjoying your break! It’s going by way too fast!

    Reply
  6. That is the best Hanukkah/Christmas story ever!!! Is it possible to e-mail it to my Jewish friend. In a few short years, her 1 year old son will be asking the same questions. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  7. Hysterical!!! I love it!!! 🙂

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  8. Only your father could come up with the ‘circumcised chimney’…

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  9. Happy Hanukkah! I’m still laughing about your chimney being circumcised.

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  10. Happy Hanukkah! I love your Father’s response – it still has me in stitches! I really needed to read this post tonight! It was the perfect ending to a long day 🙂

    Reply
    • I”m so glad my post hit the spot at the end of your long day. That’s such a great compliment 🙂 Dad’s comment was lost on me at the time, but as I got older, I realize how brilliant an answer it really was. Have a wonderful Christmas!

      Reply
  11. What a great story. I grew up with a lot of Jewish kids – it was always interesting in December…they actually had a parade in Houston recently of Jewish themed “art cars” all decorated up to celebrate the beginning of Hanukkah (That still looks like it should start with a “ch”). And there are the yard inflatables this year….

    Reply
    • I have never heard of a Hanukkah or Chanukah parade. Who knew? I’m very happy to report that I have yet to see an inflatable lawn menorah or dreidel. I just don’t understand the appeal of those inflatables.

      Reply
  12. Thanks for your little “slice” of life story….it was so precious!!!! Now I know where you get your wonderful sense of humor….If Santa had to make eight trips for each night of Hannukah, he’d be too tired to make the rounds again for Christmas…it is pure economics…besides Rudolph is a thoroughbred, not a hybrid, so he doesn’t get great mileage…

    Reply
    • You have an excellent point. Hanukkah’s 8 nights would definitely not be cost effective or fuel efficient for Santa. The fact that he can get around the globe to every child within a 24 hour period without having to stop for bathroom breaks (for him and the reindeer) is totally plausible though.

      Reply
  13. This might just be the cutest, most endearing christmas story ever – thank you so much for sharing 🙂

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  14. What a great story. My kids get to celebrate a little of both holidays. My husband’s grandma is Jewish. I grew up with Christmas. So they get to experience both family traditions.

    Reply
    • I think it’s fun to get to experience more than one holiday, especially as kids. It leads to a better understanding that people who seem different from you, really aren’t that different. Thanks for stopping in and taking the time to comment. Hope you’ll be back again soon.

      Reply
  15. Where are you all from? Morristown had a horrendous accident yesterday that was widely covered in these parts.I wrote about it in my latest post, but I’m sad to say that it’s not one of my funny ones….

    Ronnie

    Reply
    • I saw your post this morning about the horrific accident. Nothing funny to write about that, but it’s good that you posted about it. I live in Somerset County near Solberg Airport and these small plane crashes scare the daylights out of me since those little planes fly over my house all the time.

      Reply
  16. Was your chimney sweep a mohel? 😉

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  17. Your parents were obviously very smart people, and wonderful, too! I can only imagine how amazing that morning felt!

    Reply
    • It was a pretty amazing feeling. The most novel part of it for us was opening presents first thing in the morning. We always had to wait until after dark to light the candles and open our Hanukkah presents.

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  18. I had no idea Jewish kids had Christmas envy (not too many Jewish families in Alaska). It totally makes sense though. We learned about other religions in school though. After that, I distinctly remember wanting my family to play dreidel with me. The grass is always greener…

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  19. If that’s a true story, it’s one of the best I’ve heard! Good on your parents for the acidental parents. We got to celebrate both when I was a kid. Happy Chanukah and Merry Christmas!

    Reply
    • It’s a totally true story. From that year on we began hanging stockings on the fireplace and called them Hanukkah socks. Somehow, magically, they were filled every year. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment. I hope you’ll be back again soon. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah to you too.

      Reply
  20. I love that story! Your dad sounds like an amazing guy!

    Now that you mention it, I can totally tell what chimney’s are circumcized and which are not. Ours is not. But our neighbor’s is. So is my boss’s. Wait, what are we talking about again?

    Reply
  21. The fire place was no big deal, but who did the chimney job? Ouch!

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  22. What a wonderful rendition of Santa and the Jewish kids! In my Jewish household in a small midwestern town, we were told that Santa goes to all the children in the world, but that for the Jewish kids he puts the presents on the PIANO BENCH! Made sense to me! And my Dad had sleigh bells that he rang, and he shouted out Ho-Ho to let us know – in our beds and with our eyes shut tight – that Santa was in fact coming in the FRONT DOOR to get to the piano bench!! We moved when I was 9, and I found the sleigh bells! xoxox

    Reply
    • Under the piano bench…very sweet, but it still would have confused me. We didn’t have a piano either. Apparently Midwest Santa is more generous than East Coast Santa who only goes to the houses of Christian children.

      Reply
  23. I love your Dad. How clever his answer was, and right on the spot without advantage of planning. Both your parents were so sweet to leave gifts from Santa with that clever note.

    No wonder you are such a happy grown-up! Happy everything.

    Ronnie

    Reply
    • Thanks for your sweet comment, Ronnie. My father definitely had a quick witted sense of humor. I had to develop mine just to keep up with him. I learned, from an early age, that having a sense of humor was almost as important as the other 5 senses. Happy everything to you too.

      Reply
  24. Oh how I love this. Your parents rock. And hey, Happy Chanukah! Also, I’m writing this to you from my non-WP email account because WP won’t let me comment from my real one. So now, I get flipped into everyone’s “moderation” file. Makes no sense.

    Reply

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