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Christmas Magic

 

No Wreath

Annie and I are BFFs.

Her dance card opened up for me as her pubescent brother prefers to spend more time with his peers.

We are gabbing, pretending that waiting outside Trader Joe’s is as exciting as waiting in line at Disney. Marlo, with flight-attendant enthusiasm and a kukui-nut necklace, thanks us for waiting ever so “pa-ti-ent-ly.” (He says it forced into four syl-la-bles.)

He reminds us not to reach over anyone to get something.

Covid.

Annie challenges my anything-for-my-daughter policy after seeing the display immediately to the right of the door, by asking, “Dad, can we get a wreath?”

*Come on, Marlo; let us in. Away from the display. If I can get her in the store and soften her up by buying her mom a card and flowers of her choice, then I probably can get out of buying a wreath.*

I pivot, “You know, we were supposed to get a wreath from Mr. Jeff.”

A neighbor, a realtor, annually gifts pies to those who have referred him business. And, this year, they also were doing wreaths, so I signed up to get one for Mom.”

*Marlo, hurry. I don’t want to buy a wreath. I’m fine with the trees. But there is something about the wreath that is just zer-goyish.*

I continue, hoping my horrible answer will get me out of having to pay for a wreath. “But, due to recent restrictions, Mr. Jeff isn’t doing it. So, no, we aren’t getting one.”

I figured if I wasn’t buying the wreath, if I were getting it for free, then it was somehow OK. Like how the smokes I used to bum off people outside wedding venues, after the wedding on my way to my car, didn’t count as smoking.

She isn’t distracted and corrects me: “So, we should get one, then.”

*MARLO!!!*

“Honey bear, sugar plum… I… I… It’s just.”

“It’s too Christian?”

She knew. I don’t know how she knew, but she knew.

I appreciate her saving me from saying it.

“That’s ok, Dad, I get it.”

I don’t think she possibly can.

I am thankful nonetheless.

As Tony unloads, scans, and bags our bi-weekly shop, I look at Annie and say, “Go get one, Dumpling.”

She looks at my eyes to ascertain if she’s understanding what I’m saying, then bolts to the display to  retrieve the first wreath I’ve ever bought, saying,

What was I making such a deal about?

Branches tied in a circle to which a few pine-cones are glued.

It’s not such a big deal.

Annie: “Mom, mom, mom, we got you a wreath.”

Jane: “Wow, I didn’t think we’d ever have one.

She turns to me with loving, grateful eyes: “Thank you, Honey.”

Me: “I know how much Christmas means to you. My pleasure.”

The Magic of Christmas

It wasn’t until two years ago that I finally understood the magic of Christmas.

I tell people with regard to Passover seders that until you’ve been to at least three of them, you don’t really get the genre.

I guess I needed a few Christmases of doing it to understand that it’s not about the tree and the gifts.

(I already knew it wasn’t really about Jesus.)

Christmas about preparing for and then celebrating magic.

And, the prep is intense.

A summary of family tasks accomplished Sunday, December 5th:

*Bring six large tubs from the basement storage closet into the dining room
*Follow subroutine “Buy the tree”
*Remove tchotchke/bric-a-brac from the living room
*Good removal of accumulated, out-of-place, family-living detritus
*Debate with self and/or others about best lights for this year’s tree
*Play house moving life-size furniture
*Place skirt around tree in antique iron stand — shimmed level with a block — upon plastic mat — atop wooden floor — in bay window of living room
*Add lights and then already wrapped gifts
*Find tea-cup hooks in baggie in stocking and hang stockings
*Watch Christmas movie

Christmas magic doesn’t happen until you make it happen.

Just like shabbat doesn’t happen unless you add the magic “*shabbos* spice.”

Two years ago, sitting in the living room.
Christmas morning.
Fire in fireplace.
Records spinning.
Opening gifts.
Feeling merry in this season.A magic sense of fullness.

Purpose achieved, even if ephemerally.

Christmas is magic.

Most of those considering conversion to Judaism cry when I say, “We should talk openly if you have the need to mourn Christmas.”

Christmas is magic and magic is nothing one gives up without loss.

Buy the Tree

My first year I was shocked both at the cost and amount of time it takes.

I used to think you just buy a tree like you buy pasta.

Nope.

Buying a tree is nothing that easy. You have to get just the right

There was much I didn’t know.

I’ve learned that the netted trees that the carny-esque workers unbundle from cold trailers need time in a warm home for the branches to settle before decorating.

I learned that seasonal tannenbaums vary according to color, fragrance, horizontal spread, vertical spread, needle display, tip display, and life expectancy.

And I learned one other thing.

Flocking is for the *goyim*.

Friday, on the way into a local car lot turned into an uncomfortably-bright tree lot, Annie asks how much trees cost. “About $100.” Emmett asks how long it is going to take. “About 30-40 minutes.”

A brisk 20 minutes of auditions, we claim our tree.

Jane and the kids go off to pull the minivan into the lot.

I go to pay.

“That will be $160,” says the man in the camping chair at plastic table. <“Cash or charge?”

“Nope. Too much.”

There are occasions when I hear words from my mouth I didn’t

He tilts his head slightly towards the mistletoe and states, “I’m so sorry, but there is nothing I can do about it.”

An awkward moment of silence.

There is nothing he can do? Ha.

His big puppy dog eyes conjure within me compassion. Which I resent.

I feel for this man who has just attempted to fleece me.

Maybe he pegged me as Jewish and thought I didn’t know the price of trees.

Or he somehow knew about my “anything for my bride” policy.

“I could throw in some mistletoe. You are a nice family.”

“I thank you, my friend. No thank you.”

I catch up to Jane in the car before she pulls in.

Me: “If you want it, I’ll get it for you.”

Jane: “No. That’s too much. We’ll go to a u-cut tree farm tomorrow.”

Fifteen-twenty minutes by minivan away we spend

We find an even more perfect tree.

$50, you cut. Any size tree, any variety.

They lend you the saw.

As I’m cutting a round from the base Annie says, “Nice one, Rabbi. You’re circumcising the tree.”

Christmas Magic

I know some Jews get upset that Jews want to have some of this Christmas magic.

I can hear them now: “And a rabbi, no less! Celebrating the birth of Jesus!”

That’s not what I’m doing.

Although, I’m in favor of celebrating the lives of all amazing Jews.

And if a list of amazing Jews is going to include the immoral, Jew-killing Hasmonans of Chanukah, then Jesus definitely ought to be on the list of those Jews to be celebrated.

That we have a wreath on our door doesn’t mean I believe in virgin birth.

Or in a bodily resurrection of the dead.

And, I’m up in the air about Santa.

It’s just that I’m in favor of the magic.

*********************

Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer resides in Portland, Oregon. He is the founder and head of Religion-Outside-The-Box, an internet-based, global group of 3.3K+ digital-age seekers. ROTB produces excellent spiritual content.

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