Words & Banter

RED & BLACK … And Jewish Christmas Carols?

Design by Sawyer Pennington, Underlying photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash


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Well, the “silly season,” as I call it, is in full swing, and, as always, there’s plenty to do. Although I’ve managed to get the house decorated, so that’s off my holiday to-do list.


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It always makes me laugh that a nice Jewish girl dresses her hallway bear in a Santa outfit.


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But Santas, reindeer, and snowmen aren’t religious; they’re seasonal. It’s fun and festive and makes the house feel warm and cozy.


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Christmas carols are seasonal as well. Unfortunately, you cannot escape them, which drives me crazy. Although I laugh when I think about their “Jewish connection”.

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What are you talking about?

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The fact that many of the most beloved Christmas carols were written by Jews. Songs like “Santa Baby,” “I’ll Be Home For Christmas,” and “Silver Bells.” Even “The Christmas Song” was written by a Jew.

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And don’t forget probably the most famous of them all – “White Christmas” – with its music and lyrics by Irving Berlin. I love that song, plus the movie with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye, which is a holiday classic.

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Since many of the great songwriters back then were Jewish, it is not surprising that they also wrote songs for the holidays.

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True. After all, Irving Berlin also wrote “Easter Parade,” which is another one of my favorite movies. But since he’s probably one of the greatest American songwriters, it wouldn’t surprise me if he had a song for every holiday. But they aren’t religious songs.

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Or, religious movies. One turned Christmas into a holiday about snow, and the other made Easter more of a fashion show. The funny thing is some people even consider “Die Hard” a Christmas movie. Regardless, the exit music, “Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow” was also written by a Jew.

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Hey, I’m one of those people! It’s one of my favorite movies, and because it takes place over Christmas, we decided to watch it last Christmas. And now it may become a new tradition. Anyway, most Christmas carols aren’t religious. They’re about the spirit of the holiday and the season.

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Exactly. No lyrics about “shopping until you’re dropping” or “buy yourself a merry little Christmas.” However, that is probably because they were written a long time ago, well before we were born, when things were very different.

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It makes you wonder what they’d write about today, especially given the non-stop focus on holiday shopping, starting well before Black Friday and even continuing after Christmas.

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Forget “dreaming of a white Christmas” … sounds like you are dreaming of a commercial-free holiday season. That will never happen, as it is the most critical time of year for retailers.


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I know that Chanukah usually falls around the same time as Christmas, and there’s even some overlap this year, but it’s a relatively minor holiday. Yes, there’s some gift giving, but not on the scale of gifts to be found under the Christmas tree. And we always light the menorah.


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Which is important. It is a way to stay connected with the meaning of the holiday. This time of year is supposed to be about people. And, celebration. And, traditions.


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Says the woman who hates the holidays.


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I hate “forced” celebrations. And, all the commercialization. And, over-indulgence.


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That makes sense, but you couldn’t have always felt this way. Don’t you have any childhood memories of the holidays?


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Of course, I do. They were simpler times. And, as much as I do not tend to look back, I remember being in the hospital one Christmas. I was only about five, and a gentleman dressed as Santa was delivering gifts to everyone. When he came to my bed, I refused the gift telling him I was Jewish and did not celebrate Christmas.


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Not the holiday memory I was expecting. Regardless, that must have surprised him. What did he say?


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He leaned over, pulled his fake white beard away from his face, whispered something Yiddish in my ear, and then said, “It’s ok, so am I.”


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That’s hilarious. Leave it to you to find a Jewish Santa!


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Obviously, it is one of my favorite holiday memories as it has stayed with me all these years. But, for me, it is the spirit of the holiday. He was doing for others. And, allowing some other “Santa” to be home with his family.


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Careful, you’re beginning to sound warm and fuzzy. Which is what the holidays are about.


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And, traditions. They go together like Christmas and Chinese food.



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Talk about a holiday tradition! Which reminds me of one of the funniest YouTube videos you have ever sent me … when Justice Elena Kagan, at her Supreme Court confirmation hearing, was asked where she was at Christmas, she replied, “You know, like all Jews, I was probably at a Chinese restaurant.”


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Not only was that a very quick and hilarious reply, but probably true.



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We not only order Chinese take-out on Christmas but also on New Year’s Eve and then watch some movies and try to stay awake until midnight.


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Well, that reminds me of another popular Irving Berlin song, “Happy Holiday,” that was introduced during the New Year’s Eve scene in the movie, "Holiday Inn."

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And is a perfect lead-in to wishing everyone very Happy Holidays (whatever you celebrate), and a happy and healthy New Year.

Want to read other columns? Here's a list.

Image by farakos on iStock

Even though Red’sthe warm and fuzzy one and Black’s extremely pragmatic, we both think of hearts on Valentine’s Day. Just not in quite the same way …



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Happy Valentine’s Day. And before you say anything, yes, I know you don’t celebrate holidays, so just humor me.


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But, I do “celebrate” February being American Heart Month since heart disease is the leading cause of death – for both men and women.


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Gee, that’s one way to turn a “fun” holiday into a real downer. Today’s supposed to be about letting people you love and care about know that you’re thinking of them. Think Hallmark cards, squishy teddy bears, chocolate hearts.
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Photo by OnTheRunPhoto for iStock

Are you taking the Dry January challenge and not having any alcohol for the month? Or, maybe you plan to drink less (but not nothing), which makes it Damp January. Or, maybe this is the first you’ve heard of it. (If so, there’s still time to start!)

Well, nothing much has changed from our approach to Dry January last year, except the one who had started drinking more last year is continuing the trend …



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I keep getting emails about where to go for mocktails. I know alcohol-free cocktails, like Virgin Margaritas, have been around for a while, but I’d never heard that term before. Do you think it has to do with New Year’s resolutions?


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It can if any of your resolutions are to lose weight, save money, sleep better. Or, drink less. Psychologically, January is the month when we “reset”, so a UK-based organization, Alcohol Change UK , started Dry January , where you abstain from drinking alcohol.


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Perfect timing since many people shop, eat, and drink more than usual over the holidays.


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I know you used to drink a glass of Cold Duck on New Year’s Eve, a tradition going back to our childhood, but that hardly counts as drinking. But, I have always wondered why you rarely drink, but never asked.
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It’s January, and everyone’s probably tired of reading about New Year’s resolutions.

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Not me. Since I never make them, I never feel the need to read about them.

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Of course, you don’t. So, what should we write about?

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How about that we celebrate some of our favorite things in January?

So many “National Days” in January are fun (we’ve written about them over the years) and remind us of some of our favorite things. (Can you pick which are Red’s favorite holidays and which are Black’s?) And whether or not you make resolutions, it’s always important to have a sense of humor and enjoy the simpler things in life …

Answer: Red’s favorites are Bagels, Popcorn, and Hugging. Black’s are Clean Desk, Bagels, and Backward.