Let me preface this with the fact that I don't openly despise the holiday season. I have nothing against the passing Christmas Carol or jazzed up tree. In fact, I do enjoy "the season" somewhat.
I grew up in a very secular environment. For the first several years of elementary school, there were only two Jews in the class. Me and a boy. We were the requisite Jews; each class needed a pair, and we were it. It barely ever came up. There was the occasional line of questioning on my stance regarding Jesus, but there was never any kind of drama involved. That is, except during the winter holidays.
I am not one of those people who feels marginalized by being a Jew in a predominantly Christian society. I never felt like I was deprived the presence of Santa or that I was somehow slighted the Christmas experience. The only thing I missed were the decorations. I was all about the lights. I loved the colors, and the blinking. I could watch them for hours. In fact, even now as a grown adult, I enjoy light displays. And there is a special thrill with seeing palm trees with lights in them. It send chills down my spine. If I could hang blinking lights around my house all year long, I probably would.
No, my beef is not about the Justin Bieber - Flo Rida holiday blowout album. It's not the fact that the Christmas shopping season starts in August these days, or the proliferation of the crappy made for TV toy commercials that marketers force down our throats. My issue is far more deep seated, and elemental. My enemy is typecasting.
As in most schools around the country, the holidays were a big deal. Teachers needed to do something to keep the kids engaged, and it didn't hurt if you did a little something to entertain the parents. Hence, the implementation of obligatory holiday show/play/pageant. Since I was a child of the late 70's, the dawn of political correctness, we were neck deep in the attempt to make cultural diversity main stream. Teachers had to present a diverse and tolerant classroom. So what would be a better show of political correctness, than a play about the holidays around the world? Each kid would demonstrate the customs of the holiday season from a different country of the planet. Sound good, right? Not!
And, especially not, if you are the token Jewish girl in the class. When the whole rest of the class got to draw from a hat, which country they would represent in the play, I, the male Jew in the class and Noel would not. Me and the other Jew got to be David and Sarah from Israel. Every year. Over and over. David and Sarah from Israel.
Meanwhile, all the other kids got cool costumes and variety. They got to be from all over the planet, talking about customs and food from the globe. They got to enjoy the holidays in a way Sarah from Israel never would.
And then there was that biotch Noel. I was so envious of her. She was Swedish and she had the coolest costume, EVER! She would show up, her mother in tow, in a long flowing gown, with a train! Her long blonde hair flowed, as we all gazed in awe at her radiance. She circled the room with lit candles in a crown, delicately ornamenting her head.
The lights would go off in the class, and she would glide through the space, like a faerie, a glowing beacon of that ethereal character I would NEVER get to play. We all sighed and gasped as she paraded her flaming head, with nary the sign of even the slightest, festive holiday fire extinguisher in sight.
And there I was, Sarah from Israel. I stood, jealous, in my frumpy dress, holding a Menorah, that wasn't even lit; because apparently Swedes could be trusted with flame, while Jews could not.
I know it's petty and maybe I should just let this go, but it nags me to this day. Teachers, if you read this. Please carefully consider what you do for your holiday festivities. I don't know if this entails outlawing little blonde girls with candelabras on their heads, or making a rule that nobody plays a character from their own background. Or perhaps we should simply nix the whole holiday play altogether. Personally, I think a play entitled "The Holidays from Around the Milky Way Galaxy" may be a cool way to go. The kids could get creative, and no particular faith would be a focal point. And this way, even the Jewish kid can walk around with a laser tiara on her head.