Revelations: How a nice Jewish boy came to celebrate Christmas

They may as well as have been the Waltons. They were 22 carat solid gold Christians and I was eating their turkey. Peter Moss recalls a Christmas past.

Descended as I am from Abraham, via a boxer named Mendoza and a car dealer called Moskowitz, Christmas doesn't mean a great deal to me.

This wasn't always the case. I remember when I was a kid, my non-Jewish friend Timothy, keen to patch up 2,000 years of religious differences, invited me to celebrate Christmas with his family. Immediately, difference number one. They celebrate holidays, we just observe them - which is true, as anyone who's ever sat in passive boredom at the Passover Seder table, replete with burnt eggs, bitter herbs, and unleavened bread, will testify. Eager for some jolly celebrations, I accepted the offer.

Timothy's people were the Waltons; 22 carat solid gold Christians, the only goyim within our little quarter of Jewish suburbia. Had this been Omaha Nebraska and not Hendon, their boys would have been named Chuck, Biff and Shepherd. As it was, they were Thomas, Timothy and Christopher.

We sat around the dinner table in a scene that Woody Allen was to transplant a decade later straight into Annie Hall: 11 Wasps and a snot-nosed Jewish kid from the posh end of the road. Immediately, difference number two. Goyim are so quiet. In a Jewish house you can't hear the conversation for soup. In a non-Jewish house you can't hear the conversation. The Waltons home was so quiet you'd have thought someone had died.

Grandma Walton sensed my discomfort at pulling crackers, singing carols and eating suspicious white meat. "So what do you lot do for Christmas?" she inquired. I told her we didn't observe Christmas, but instead we have Chanukah. Warming to my theme, I explained the origins of Chanukah, recounting the miracle of the Jewish people making a teaspoon of oil last for eight days. She wasn't impressed. She'd been performing the same miracle for years with pot roast.

She then launched into a tirade of religious one-upmanship. "Our miracles are much more impressive than yours!" she claimed. "For instance?" I enquired. "For instance," she replied, "the feeding of the five thousand - pretty impressive by any standards." I countered with Moses parting the waves of the Red Sea. She hit back with Christ walking on the water - an undeniably brilliant sleight of foot - and I retired gracefully to my hymn book.

Today, older and wiser and with children of my own, Christmas assumes absolutely no significance for me or my kids - and so far as they are concerned this has probably always been the case. Not so. If I were to write a book entitled Things I Never Told My Mother and Certainly Won't Tell My Children, the most pot-boiling chapter would chronicle blow by heretical blow the Christmas Eve when I hung a stocking at the foot of my bed and asked God (that's God the Son, not God the Father) to send me some new football boots and a pair of Peter Wyngarde fake sideburns. I never got either, not from God, his son, or my folks ... so I nicked them, but that's another chapter.

Thirty years on, and suddenly the stocking makes sense. Why not celebrate Christmas - and Easter, and Epiphany, and even the Feast of the Assumption for that matter? OK, I'm Jewish. But what is Christianity if not unashamedly derivative of Judaism? These 2,000 years of animosity - it's got nothing to do with the crucifixion. It's nothing more or less than a thousand degrees of envy because we had the ideas first. What are Easter and the Last Supper if not a plagiarisation of the Passover Seder, the eggs chocolate instead of burnt? Where would Whit Sunday be without the role model of Pentecost? And what are the 12 days of Christmas if not an extravagant rejoinder to the eight days of Chanukah, an elaborate excuse to match the Jews pound for pound in over-spending and over-eating?

And, in any case, Christ was Jewish, and what better than to celebrate the rise of a nice Jewish boy who played so beautifully to type. Tell me I'm wrong. Not only did he live at home till he was 34 years of age, not only did he go into his father's business, not only did his mother think he was God but, for heaven's sake, he thought she was a virgin! I rest my case. Happy Christmas, Happy Chanukah, whatever.

This year Chanukah begins at sunset, 23 December ( Christmas begins a day or so later).

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

    £14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

    Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

    £13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

    Day In a Page

    Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

    Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

    But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

    Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
    Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

    Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

    Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
    Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

    Britain's 24-hour culture

    With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
    Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

    The addictive nature of Diplomacy

    Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
    8 best children's clocks

    Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

    Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
    Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

    How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

    Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
    Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

    'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

    In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
    Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

    The Arab Spring reversed

    Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
    King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

    Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

    Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
    Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

    Who is Oliver Bonas?

    It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
    Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

    Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

    However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
    60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

    60 years of Scalextric

    Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
    Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

    Why are we addicted to theme parks?

    Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
    Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

    Iran is opening up again to tourists

    After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there