I was watching South Park the other day. The episode was on where Kyle sings about how sad it is to be a Jew at Christmas, and it got me thinking. I’m a huge fan of South Park, which I regard as, among other things, probably the best exploration of what it’s like to be Jewish in America since Philip Roth, and I understand where the sentiment comes from. Of course, South Park isn’t the only place I’ve seen Jews portrayed as feeling left out at Christmastime, consoling themselves with the lesser pleasures of Hanukkah candles and presents for 8 days–it’s a pretty common pop culture meme. Of course, a good deal of this stuff is written by Jews, and though one never knows whether it reflects a writer’s true feelings or what they think their audiences want to hear, I’m sure for a lot of Jewish people, it’s true.
But not for me. Listen, I like Christmas time. It’s great that we fight the onset of seasonal affective disorder with glittering lights, gingerbread houses and office parties. I love to drive around and see the houses all lit up, to go downtown and see the the store windows filled with animatronic Dickens people. Invite me to your holiday party and I’ll be there, hopefully not getting too sloppy around the egg nog. Watch The Christmas Carol or A Charlie Brown Christmas for the millionth time? No problem. But a Christmas tree in my living room or a wreath on my door? That’s OK–no thanks.
See, one of the joys of being Jewish at Christmas is that it affirms that fact that I can share my neighbor’s happiness without having to be part of it. I can be different, and it’s all right. Celebrating diversity doesn’t just mean not minding when people of a different ethnicity move next door–it means honoring the diversity within yourself as well. Yes, Christmas is a wonderful holiday. But I have wonderful holidays of my own that, important as they are, the larger culture barely notices. I’ve never, after all, seen a show where a non-Jew is depicted feeling left out during Sukkot. In that sense, my not celebrating Christmas isn’t a lack–it’s a positive.
So, however Kyle Kozlowski feels, I won’t be sad this Christmas, let alone this Hanukkah(you’ve gotta love a holiday that celebrates fried food). Go ahead and deck your halls and I’ll hope your Christmas is white (6 inches or less, please). And whatever your tradition, I hope this holiday season and this coming year brings you happiness, prosperity and peace.
We’ve been wanting to to a bar mitzvah story for a long time. As a strip that deals on occasion with American Jewish life, it seemed, as a topic, to be a no-brainer. But it also seemed hard–while bar and bat mitzvahs are famous for tending towards excess, we didn’t want to do anything that denigrated them. Bar and bat mitzvahs aren’t something Jews have to do–they’re basically folk customs that have only become celebrated in their current form in the last 70 or so years–but for most Jews they’ve become life cycle events as important as weddings or funerals and are usually very meaningful for their participants. We wanted to get that across.
Several factors have come to together to finally make this the right time. We’ve mitzvah-ed our own two kids and feel like we have a pretty good understanding of the process, with all its joys and difficulties. We also want to age Colin and Carly a little. When Edge City started, we conceived of the family as static, the characters never changing. But as the years have passed and our kids have grown up, we’ve felt ever farther from the young parents we started off writing about. We’ve aged the kids a bit the last few years, but we felt that for Colin to become a teenager–albeit a young one–he had to have a bar mitzvah. Around here, that’s just how it works.
Colin’s bar mitzvah won’t happen all at once; we’ll revisit the story several times this year, culminating in the big event either this spring or fall. We hope you enjoy it. You don’t have to send a present or even a gift card. But consider this your official invitation.
Terry’s bar mitzvah, 1974
Between the hours of 10 and 11 every night, I find it difficult to do anything but watch TV. I love PBS, but if nothing interesting’s on, which is often, I’ll happily surf the less high-brow fare on cable. I try to avoid commercials when I can, but it’s impossible to skip them altogether, especially when they often seem to be demonically coordinated to appear on several channels simultaneously.
Some of the commercials I find most fascinating are the ones for drugs to treat male, shall we say, dysfunction, with their rugged middle-aged guys cuddling wives who glow with gratitude for their husband’s potency. The ones for the testosterone treatments you use like deodorant particularly stand out, not least because of product’s logo, which is a male figure with what look like rainbows radiating from his armpit. And the list of possible side effects which always ends the ads, including in this case unusual hair growth.
Anyhow, after watching these things for a good deal of time, we came up with the latest story. It’s one of the better ones we’ve done in awhile, we think. Hope you do, too. And if you see a rainbow, be sure to check where it’s coming from.