Can't beat 'em, join 'em

Dec 8, 1999 at 12:00 am

I'm Jewish, so Christmas is a weird time of year. Starting around Thanksgiving, my world becomes a disorienting blur of colored lights, Yuletide music, Claymation TV specials and shopping come-ons. Frankly, it's exhausting.

But part of me has always wanted to join in. True, we Jews have Hanukkah. But that holy day is actually a minor occasion — dressed up with Santa-style gifts to keep the kids happy. And Christmas — the biggest American holiday — is just another night of rented videos and moo shu beef.

However, my personal connection to the Yuletide spirit changed three years ago. On a whim, my girlfriend and I tried something new: We threw a Christmas party. And despite raised eyebrows from Grandma Bertha, it was a huge success.

It makes perfect sense. Because we're not bound by market pressure to buy fruitcake for every friend and co-worker, we can spend our cash where it counts: party shopping.

And Jesus, Mary and Joseph ... do we shop. Since neither of us has experienced a real Christmas, we take cues from movies and old Christmas records. You want chestnuts? We got 'em (Eastern Market, $2 a pound). Nat King Cole? Put him on the hi-fi. Gingerbread men? They're in the house.

In order to get Christian friends to attend, timing is important. The party begins on Christmas Day at 9 p.m., long after presents have been opened and Grandpa's fallen asleep on the couch. And since all the bars and clubs are closed, we're the only game in town.

Our Christmas shindig has become an annual event — anticipated by Jewish and gentile friends alike. In fact, many Christian friends — some of whom admit they've never even seen, much less tasted a roasted chestnut — admit it's like the idealized Christmas they've never quite had.

Me too.