How My Jewish Family Really Spends Christmas

Photo: Moviestore Collection/REX Shutterstock.
For the first few years of my life, I grew up in kind of a bubble. I went to preschool at my family’s synagogue, so I was only educated about Jewish holidays, and all of my friends and relatives were Jewish. This meant that I didn’t actually learn about things like Christmas and Santa Claus until I started going to public school in kindergarten. It also meant that my brother and I were very confused every year when the entire world seemed to come to a standstill at the end of December, specifically on December 25.

Our parents were definitely at a loss as to what to do with two young children on that day. Since we didn’t have cable, and all of the network stations changed over to Christmas-themed programming like midnight mass and the Yule Log, watching TV was out. Stores were obviously closed, and even though that one prophetic song talks about a white Christmas, this magical dream rarely came to pass in our northern New Jersey town. Sledding, unfortunately, was out as well.

If you’ve ever seen Fiddler on the Roof, you know that we are a people steeped in tradition. And so we looked to our forefathers — here meaning other assimilated Americans Jews — to see how they pass the time on December 25. It should come to no surprise to anyone who’s watched SNL’s cheeky “Christmastime for the Jews” (or any TV show or movie that references how Jews spend Christmas, really) that the Le Vine family tradition closely follows that of our tribe: We see a movie and eat Chinese food — or Japanese…or even Turkish when my mom managed to twist my dad’s arm to try something new that one year.

This year, I decided to write down every single one of the movies my family has seen during this annual tradition, which I’m sure many R29 readers share. We generally try to see a movie that all of us — my dad, my mom, and my older brother — agree on, which is a lot harder than it sounds. Even though my brother and I have now grown up and moved out of our parents' house, we still try to make it home for Christmas. It's become an important annual tradition, a time when we catch up and talk about shared experiences, which become increasingly rare after you move away from home.

Looking back at the list of films (and our reactions to each one) provides an interesting biography of 25 years of Le Vine family history through a unique lens. I’ve never experienced what it’s like to gather around a tree on Christmas morning. But for me, sitting in a theater on December 25 with my parents and brother provides the same feeling of family communion I’m sure the holiday offers everyone. So without further ado, here they are: All of my family’s Jewish Christmas movies.