Jewish Journal


December 24, 2009




Just when we think we can breathe a sigh of relief, that after gorging ourselves with Hanukkah Sufganiyot for 8 days we can finally put the Holidays behind us for a couple of months, along comes one more. 

Don’t tell me you didn’t know Christmas is a Jewish Holiday?

Truth is, I wasn’t so sure about it myself. It was one thing when I lived in Los Angeles, where it seemed to me that being American – Jewish or Gentile—was intertwined with celebrating some form of Christmas, whether just exchanging gifts, attending a party or two, or placing a “token” tree in the living room “so we’ll have someplace to put the gifts.” 

But here in Israel, in Tel Aviv, I certainly didn’t expect to get a sled-load of invitations to Christmas Parties, many with decidedly Jewish themes. The invites promised eggnog, scantily clad female (and male) elves, and one party even had a mandatory dress code – yes, you guessed it – traditional red and green.

And why not? Watching the news this evening report Holiday preparations around the world, you sort of get caught up in the mad shopping sprees that are the hallmark of Christmas. Then they pan to the pristine snow covering the ground, reindeer pulling a sled, egg nog, a warm cozy fire – hey, how much joy can one person take? Check the Websites that list “Santa’s worldwide route” and yes, once again the little country of Israel is nowhere to be found. It’s one thing when CNN forgets about us, but a guy with a long, white beard has to pay us a visit…at least a chimney stop in Jerusalem.

No one likes to be left out. Especially when the rest of the world seems to be having so much fun! So is it any wonder we want to celebrate Christmas? Now to find that Jewish theme….

Actually, it’s elementary my dear reader: If Christ was Jewish doesn’t it stand to reason that Christmas was probably Jewish at one time as well?

Think about it: A short, stout man with a long beard and a hat, a warm smile but not fawning, clearly a charismatic figure, devout helpers announcing his coming, and of course he only visits the good for only the good can be rewarded. 

Sound Familiar?

No, I’m not talking about the Messiah – although a case for that could be made too. I’m talking about Elijah the Prophet, the spirit that comes to every bris and has a special cup of wine prepared for him at the Seder table (of course, he comes through the door). Is it just coincidence that the germatria (numerical value – dropping all the zeros) for the Hebrew word “Santa” just happens to be the equivalent of the combination of words Elijah and Seder as well as Elijah and Bris? Of course not. 

Santa the eternal visitor and Elijah the eternal visitor have certain common traits. They both evoke a certain spirit; they both have long white beards; and of course, they both ride chariots in the sky. 

See the Jewish link?

Just in case you don’t. As I note the red and greed colors decorating my invitations,  I’m reminded of the Purim story, of how a person is supposed to drink so much that he can’t tell the difference between Haman, the villain and Mordechai, the hero, and it dawns on me: Why are the colors of Christmas red and green? Clearly, because a person is supposed to drink so much until he can’t tell the difference between Red – stop! and Green – go! 

So, we might have thought the Holidays were behind us, but here they are again. Purim, Passover, they’ve all been mixed up, rearranged, and reworked so that the rest of the world can enjoy them as well.

‘Tis the season….

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