My Santa's No Secret

I'll admit it. I'm Jewish. I don't go to Hillel; I eat my share of shrimp; and I listen to Wagner. And my last name is as goyishe as it gets. But I'm Jewish. I live in Manhattan; I can quote Woody on command; and I observe (Jews never "celebrate") in varying degrees of intensity the high points of the Jewish ritual calendar.

But I don't give Hannukah presents, and I don't want to receive any. Giving gifts for Hannukah is silly. So is a "Hannukah bush" and the prospect of Hannukah Harry flying through the sky with a bunch of reindeer.

It's Secret Santa time again. Time for Joe Harvard to run out to Urban Outfitters and buy espresso cups or candy canes or other $3.95 trinkets to win the heart of some available ingenue.

But 'tis the season for tolerance, and thus such atrocities as Leverett House's "Secret Winter Snow Friend." This sounds like a porn film. Other campus organizations fare no better with "Secret Holiday Pal," which evokes images of an old man sitting on a park bench playing the "shiny quarter in my pocket" trick on unsuspecting eight-year-olds.

Perhaps we could organize "Secret Sanford," and resurrect Redd Foxx to deliver "the big one." Or maybe "Secret Santana" would inspire revelers to croon "Black Magic Woman" to their lucky recipients of holiday cheer. "Secret Satan," however, might not go over too well with the anti-evil crowd, and "Secret Santayana" wouldn't work if people can't remember the past.


It's time to wake up and smell the eggnog. We're celebrating Christmas. And for all practical purposes, it's a secular occasion, even though it does commemorate the birth of Jesus. In case anyone didn't notice, it's a national holiday. And the fat white guy with the hardened arteries in the red suit looks too much like Karl Marx to have any connection with the kid in the manger.

Yes, I realize that Santa Claus is somehow derived from St. Nicholas, and it's true that no self-respecting Jew would ever romp around in that idiotic outfit and give away all that stuff for free. But as an American icon, he's much closer to Dom DeLuise than Pope John Paul II. Anybody with a head like Dean Jewett and a body like Dean Epps isn't my idea of a symbol of religious devotion.

If Jews and other non-Christians want to join the holiday bartering, we should get with the program and start exchanging Christmas presents. Hannukah itself is a nice little holiday, commemorating the victory of the Maccabees over Greek aggressors a long time ago. But in the Jewish calendar, it's very much a minor event. It's not even mentioned in the Bible. And the specter of celebrating the holiday by swapping presents might prompt Hillel himself to spin in his grave.

My mom is very happy this year because Hannukah and Christmas overlap. When Hannukah comes and goes in early December, she says she feels the candle-lighting is "totally out of context." My mother claims to be Jewish, but then again so does Paul Newman.

And then there's the tree thing. Every year a few people bitch and moan about the presence of this religious artifact in house dining halls and JCRs. I say, bullfeathers. These erstwhile evergreens are about as secular as it gets, unless they're bedecked with a cross or an angel or Donny and Marie Osmond paraphernalia.

We as a nation need all the unifying rituals and symbols we can find. They killed off Elvis. They forced Carson to retire. And they turned "Saturday Night Live" into repetitive, humorless drivel. Now they're trying to take Santa Claus and Christmas trees from us. It's time to fight back.

You'll have to excuse me now. I've got to rummage through the Square to find tonight's present for my Santee. Although she's Jewish, I won't be giving her chocolate Hannukah coins, or Portnoy's Complaint or gefilte fish. That still leaves me with plenty of options. I hope she likes espresso.

If the holiday spirit moves you, gentle reader, send me a Christmas present. I live in Winthrop House, room E-24. Or stop by and watch me light Hannukah candles for eight nights starting next Saturday, while I shiver in an unheated suite slaving away over my thesis while everyone else has flown home to frolic in the snow.

I won't be lighting candles for Christmas. That would be silly. And I won't be swapping Hannukah presents. Equally absurd. Hannukah Harry, take a hike. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night.

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