Everyone always makes comments to me about a "traditional Jewish Christmas," i.e. Chinese food and a movie. I think it's quaint, because, until I was living in DC in my mid-20s and had my first ever Jewish boyfriend, I had no idea what that meant.
My family had a traditional Christmas: stockings, tons of presents, capped off with a giant family celebration. My mother did, however, draw the line at a tree. And Jesus. There was no room for Jesus in our Christmas.
Most of my memories of Christmas revolve around the fireplace in our second house in New Jersey, the big house in the affluent suburb. We always had piles of presents, and the Christmas presents were entirely separate from the Hanukkah presents. (Santa Claus was very careful most of the time to not use the Hanukkah wrapping paper.)
Every year, there was candy and an orange in the stocking, and when I was really good, sometimes something extra special like a bracelet or earrings. Santa was a firm believer that "good things come in small packages." And like my mother, Santa agreed that jewelry was a very good thing.
I had a really good childhood.
Before that house, we lived in a different house, a split-level, without a fireplace. In that house, Santa left the presents by the front door, and we would sit on the stairs and open them. I used to pester my father with all sorts of questions about how Santa got into the house in the absence of a chimney. My dad eventually told me that parents of good boys and girls gave Santa a spare key. Case closed.
The year we moved out of that first house, when my brother was still a baby, I remember my mother taking me into the city to see The Nutcracker. I had just started ballet lessons and was convinced that I was going to be a ballerina. I looked the part: tiny and vaguely Eastern European, particularly in comparison to my larger, blonder siblings and cousins. Unfortunately, despite 11 years of dance lessons, the klutzy gene prevailed. (At least I got the bookish gene to go with it!)
I've written before about the Christmases in Florida. I've told the story of the mutant and pornographic Chrismanukkah cookies. I've also noted that the house in Florida didn't have a fireplace, and so, we'd have Christmas in front of the television.
When I was older, I would wait until everyone else had fallen asleep to sneak out and leave presents from "Santa Claus" for the entire family. It was nice to surprise my mother. The last Christmas I spent with my entire family - in 2006 -- Santa brought us all matching pajamas. Santa was such a dork.
I miss Santa terribly right now. I could use a dose of Christmas magic.