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.
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.**