Friday, December 10, 2010

Oy Vey! Belief in Santa used to bolster Jewish self-esteem

Jewish Week

My 3-year-old nephew, his voice raspy from a recent cold, has been directing a long-winded narrative my way. I catch only a few words, but they startle me: Santa will be sliding down chimneys, and then there will be presents.

“Oh really?” I say, my eyebrows rising, inwardly vowing to speak with my sister.

Although my sister and I did not grow up in a strictly observant Jewish home, Christmas remained a world apart. When the revelers caroled in our Queens neighborhood, I listened from a safe distance, peering behind porch curtains. When holiday lights twinkled through the windows next door, I stared, enraptured, envious. If I reaped some small compensation from my Jewish identity at Christmas time, it was the satisfaction of sharing in the adult secret. Santa Claus was a fake.[...]

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