Be more Jewish, do Christmas

By Simon Round, December 23, 2008
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A lot of Jews do Christmas. A great percentage of them feel slightly guilty about it — and a small proportion of the ones who don’t observe the festival feel that they are missing out on something, particularly when they see the M&S ads and watch Nigella’s Christmas Kitchen.

However, practically all of us mark New Year’s Eve in some way — either by sharing a drink with friends, going out for a meal or drinking 10 pints of a vodka-based punch and sleeping under somebody’s car in a street in Hainault (although to be fair, 1992 was not a typical year).

I think we have it the wrong way round. Christmas is fundamentally our kind of chag — the whole gesheft, after all, is about Jews and Israel and family.

Plus, it’s much more about the food than the drink and, according to every newspaper’s agony aunt, everybody ends up broiges with everyone else — so, a lot like Pesach with added plum pudding.

Of course there is that minor problem relating to the fact this is a festival celebrating the birth of a heretical Jew whose life and death and alleged re-birth in Roman-era Judea set in train 2,000 years of Christian antisemitism — but is that really a good enough reason not to have a mince pie and a glass of port with your nearest and dearest?

The real culprit is New Year’s Eve. Fundamentally, what we celebrate on December 31 (unless I am missing something) is the 2009th anniversary of the birth of Jesus — because our calendars count from the year of his birth. Yet the vast majority of us have no problem partying through the night on this basis — which would be fine if it was any fun. But it is not fun. I can count the good New Year’s Eves I have had on one finger. Ironically, one of those was while I was on kibbutz in Israel, where, for some reason, they call the occasion “Sylvester” — why not Tweetie Pie or Yogi Bear?

What with the fear of redundancy, of your home being repossessed and your savings evaporating quicker than an Icelandic geyser, you may think that this is the year to drown your sorrows in a couple of litres of vodka and something-or-other.

That is understandable but I implore you to obey the talmudic injunction to watch Later with Jools Holland. Because, should you venture out of the door on December 31, it is possible that one of the following could happen to you (on the basis that they have all happened to me). You could travel on the train all the way to Crystal Palace for what you have been promised will be a great party only to discover that four people have turned up — one of whom is the host’s 60-year-old but nevertheless libidinous aunt; or you could be packed on to a night bus at 3am with 120 strangers, at least 35 of whom will have vomited before the bus reaches North Finchley; or you could spend a fortune on a mediocre set meal and half a bottle of warm Chardonnay followed by a ride home in the night bus (see above).

However, should you decide to ignore my advice and find you need a vehicle to sleep under in the early hours of January 1, I would go for a Lexus or a Mercedes. Take it from me, the Ford Fiesta provides little in the way of insulation from the elements.

    Last updated: 11:13am, December 23 2008