by Sara Paretsky
My family moved to Kansas in when I was four; on our arrival, my father became the 10th Jewish male in town, which meant they could have a minyan. We lived in the country, because the town had zoning laws on where Jews and African-Americans could live. As the only Jew in my grade, year after year I had to stand up and explain the story of Hannukah to the class. It just didn't compete with the sentimental birth in the manger. Nor did our menorah compete with the lit-up trees we glimpsed through windows as we drove to our dust- and anger-filled house in the isolated countryside. I read Little Women every year from the age of 7 on; I thought all Gentile household were like the Marches'--filled with warmth and laughter, even grief and tears having a reassuring outcome.
I married an Anglo-Canadian with three sons and a tradition of plum pudding and roast goose worthy of Dickens For years I threw myself into trees and homemade fruit cakes, plum puddings. I roasted barnyards full of geese and ducks. And I discovered the secret of the Gentile Christmas: total exhaustion, occasional meltdown, children who never get the present they were hoping for. A few years ago I stopped the trees I have a creche, where Jesus lies in his manger with his very own menorah, Joseph sports a tallis and yamulke, and Mary is emerging from her Mikvah. I don't light a menorah myself--Hannukah should be celebrated with children, not by a lone adult. I serve Christmas dinner to my grown sons, my beloved granddaughter, and whatever friends are in town--and the plum pudding comes by mail order from a shop in Tacoma. No one seems to notice the difference. It's Boxing Day; I'm exhausted, but not unhappy. My granddaughter is still asleep downstairs. My husband and I are waiting to see what the day will bring.
Happy Boxing Day to all. May the new year be--against all probability--one of peace on this tired, sad planet.