It’s December 25th. Living in a majority Christian country means this day is different than other days
Growing up in suburbia
You know that thing about Jews going out for Chinese food on Christmas Eve? That was a thing, but do you know why? It’s because everything was closed on December 24th – or at least from mid-afternoon on December 24th — until the morning of December 26th.
Essential workers were police, fire, maybe the pharmacy (I never needed one, so I am not so sure).
The exception was that Chinese restaurants were open. Why? Because the owners weren’t Christian. I made my first Asian Pacific friend, Irene, in fourth or fifth grade. Her father owned the local Chinese restaurant. She fit right in with the nerdy good-girl types I hung with at that time. She won the hearts of all the Jewish kids when her mother threw a party on Christmas day for her Jewish friends. That’s when I learned that Chinese people aren’t all Christian. (At that time, I thought everyone who wasn’t Jewish was Christian). That party was an early interfaith experience that I remember fondly.
College and beyond
In my life, the Chinese restaurant tradition did not carry on after college. Some of my friends still did it. However, the movie tradition took hold among my Jewish friends. Why? Because everything else was closed, it’s cold, videos were available. Movie theaters were open in some of the places I lived. Once videos and streaming started, the world of movies broke wide open!
For most of the 1980’s, I worked in human services. Schools closed, but mental health services and residential care services didn’t. When I worked in agencies that were open, I signed up to work on Christmas day. I felt it was more important to make let Christians have their holiday. I found that many people who grew up Christian, but had no religious feeling about it, still cherished the day.
For some of my adult life, I was partnered with Christian people. I celebrated Christmas with their family. It was fun. In my experience, it was family celebration, not a religious one.
For a few years, we had a regular dinner out on Christmas Eve with a woman of Christian heritage who converted to Baha’i.
I know other Jewish people who regularly attend Christmas Eve or Epiphany services, but that was never a thing for me.
The tradition that comes and goes and comes back again is that movie marathon. For all of your celebrating December 25th with movies, I offer you Rotten Tomatoes 100 Best Christmas Movies. There are some surprising picks on that.