Did you know that Christmas and New Year’s are secretly a Jewish holiday?
Well, not really. But maybe we can start an urban legend. An Internet hoax. A new Dan Brown novel. Or something.
I was thinking about how this week between Christmas and New Year’s always feels a little unmoored and other-worldly. Schools are closed; workplaces are half-empty. When I used to be employed at newspapers, this was always a bad week to get your phone calls returned and a good week to organize your files. Yesterday I tried to borrow some books from our local public library and discovered it is closed until January, due to a combination of holidays and budget cuts.
Then it occurred to me… maybe Christmas and New Year’s are just one long eight-day holiday!
We have a bunch of these in the Jewish calendar. Passover lasts for seven days in Israel and eight days in the Diaspora. Sukkot lasts for seven days. Chanukah lasts for eight days. Orthodox Jews limit the kinds of work they do during chol ha’moed, the middle days of Sukkot and Passover. This final week of December feels similar to my vague, decades-old memories of Passover in Israel – schools were closed, some businesses were closed, families took vacations, everything slowed down a bit.
I guess Christmas at one point had 12 days of geese a-laying and lords a-leaping. But unfortunately for the goose and lord industries, no one here in the U.S. seems to celebrate 12 days of it.
So forget the 12 days or even Twelfth Night. What we’ve got is one eight-day-long holiday that begins with Christmas and ends with New Year’s.
So, happy Christmayear! Let’s formalize its rituals: Eating leftovers. Re-gifting fruitcake. Wondering whether to join a health club on Jan. 2nd. Waiting in vain for people to respond to business calls or emails.
And let’s bring Christmayear out of the closet. Eight days – clearly an unrecognized Jewish holiday.