The countdown to Christmas has started in earnest. I can’t stand it. Every year I get so stressed by it all – and I don’t even have a huge family to cater for or a gigantic circle of friends to buy presents for. I can’t help it; I get caught up in the hysteria and end up feeling like a nervous wreck.
This year I have decided not to take part in it at all. All right, go on, call me a Scrooge and a Grinch. I don’t care. I want to retain some of my sanity.
Christmas is a Christian festival and I am not a Christian. Do you celebrate Hanukkah if you’re not a Jew? I don’t think so. Give me one good reason why I should celebrate Christmas?
We never celebrated it when I was a child. I went to school in a district of Paris mostly populated by Jews and we were taught about nos ancêtres les Gaulois and we used to draw Christmas trees and sing chants de Noël. Fine. If you live in an overtly Christian country (the separation of Church and State is written into the French Constitution, but it's still a Catholic country and it was very much so then, even more than now) you have to conform – when you’re at school or at work. But that’s as far as it should go; what you do in the privacy of your home and within your family is up to you. I remember being asked to write about “How I spent Christmas” one time too many, when I was about nine years old. My Jewish friends’ essays were works of fiction. Mine was a true reflection of what had taken place in my home around that time and was entitled “How I spent Hanukkah” instead. My little rédaction was read out in class and praised for its originality. But, then, I've always lacked imagination.
My parents would have felt they were betraying their origins if they’d brought a Christmas tree into our home. They came from Eastern Europe, where traditionally Christmas and Easter weren't complete without the Christian populace starting pogroms and attacking the Jews in their shtetls. Why should I celebrate a festival that has such unsavoury connotations for me and my coreligionists?
Of course, the true meaning of Christmas has got more and more lost over the years so, to a lot of people, it has just become an excuse for eating and drinking too much, and getting into debt. Unbridled consumerism and greediness now reflect the true spirit of Christmas. I don't want to take part in that either.
Who knows, maybe I just need a little break and will be singing carols with everyone else next year. (I wouldn’t hold my breath, though, if I were you.)
In the meantime, I want to slap the whole cynical “Christmas industry”.