The oft repeated joke is that Jews spend Christmas Eve enjoying a dinner of Chinese food.
Guilty, though our family sometimes substitutes Indian cuisine. When I speak of family, I mean the one Gilda and I created together. When I grew up in Brooklyn, we spent Christmas Eve at home, eating a regular home cooked meal. It was, after all, just an ordinary evening. If Christmas fell on a weekday, as it does this year, it meant the evening before was simply the evening before a school day, with homework to be done. My Hebrew elementary school held classes Christmas Week so as not to confuse us about, or give credence to, the holiday of another religion. My Hebrew high school was more liberating. It freed us from school during the week between Christmas and New Year’s. I suspect it had to do with the secular studies teachers who taught in public high schools and were off that week.
Anyway, returning to Christmas Eve, Gilda, the kids and I also enjoyed riding around looking at Christmas decorations. Which brings me to one of my favorite stories about the innocence of children.
A little more than 25 years ago our friends Michael and Sandy were preparing to move from their co-op in Eastchester to White Plains. A few days before the relocation they bundled their two young boys in the car to look at their new residence. At first enthusiastic to make the move, the older boy, Aaron, burst out in tears when they drove by their soon to be home. He was inconsolable.
It took prolonged prodding but the cause of Aaron's tantrum finally revealed itself. Seems a holly wreath hung from the front door of the house. Four- or five-year-old Aaron was upset because he presumed he and his family could no longer be Jewish if they wanted to live behind that door.