Friday, December 28, 2007
From The Chicago Tribune…
Is nothing sacred? A seasonal kvetch
Jews getting crowded out of a Christmas Eve tradition
By Barbara Brotman, Tribune staff reporter
How can I put this in a way that does not cause offense?
What are all you non-Jewish people doing at the movies on Christmas Eve?
I mean no disrespect or hostility. But Christmas Eve is approaching, and with it our family’s annual tradition of the Christmas Eve movie. It is a tradition we share with many of our fellow Jews. It is part of the classic Jewish response to the holiday we do not celebrate--Chinese food and a movie.
Christmas Eve at the movies was a beautiful tradition. We would show up at the theater seconds before the show was to begin. We would saunter up to the window and buy a ticket from the poor, bored schlub who had drawn Christmas Eve duty.
We would go to the snack bar, where as the sole customers we would enjoy personal, if depressed, service. Then we would take our seats--really, any seats, since we were often the only people in the theater, unless there was a smattering of other Jews. Then we would stretch out and enjoy the movie, our Christmas Eve tradition observed and thoroughly enjoyed.
But in recent years a dismaying trend has appeared. Movie theaters are now packed on Christmas Eve. We have been reduced to buying our tickets in advance.
Maybe some of the crowding is due to an influx of Hindus or Buddhists. But most of the movie-goers appear to be Christian; some are even wearing Christmas sweaters.
And so I ask my Christian friends and neighbors, as they stream into the multiplex on Christmas Eve: What are you doing here?
Aren’t you supposed to be home in the bosom of your families? Shouldn’t you be trimming trees, roasting chestnuts and singing carols? This beautiful holiday celebrated amid home and family--why are you spending it at the 21-screen?
It seems so wrong. Christmas is a time of tradition. You who observe it decorate your homes, wrap gifts and attend religious services. We who don’t eat cashew chicken and go to see the current equivalent of “Die Hard.” Each group enjoys its special heritage, and we coexist in a spirit of mutual respect.
It doesn’t bother me to be excluded from Christmas, any more than it would bother me to be excluded from a neighbor’s family reunion. It’s just not my party. That’s why I make my own, complete with coming attractions and Jujubes.
But now my party is being crashed. We Jews go to the movies because we have nothing else to do. But you who have plenty of other things to do are now coming to the movies too.
Is this invasion fair? We don’t turn the tables and try to horn in on your traditions. You don’t see us hogging spots on Santa’s knee or buying up all the Christmas lights for our back yards, do you? We respect your rituals. Why not respect ours?
OK, maybe you need a break from wrapping gifts. Maybe you need a break from your families. I can understand. Sometimes we need a break from our families too. Still, you don’t see us skipping High Holiday dinners and crashing your end-of-summer barbecues instead.
And so, a Christmas Eve plea:
Go home, people. Be with your families, and not in the same row in Theater 2. Put your stockings on the mantel, not your drink cup in the holder. A very Merry Christmas to you. And for us, extra salt on the popcorn.