A Kosher Christmas: 'Tis the Season to be Jewish (Paperback)
Christmas is not everybody’s favorite holiday. Historically, Jews in America, whether participating in or refraining from recognizing Christmas, have devised a multitude of unique strategies to respond to the holiday season. Their response is a mixed one: do we participate, try to ignore the holiday entirely, or create our own traditions and make the season an enjoyable time? This book, the first on the subject of Jews and Christmas in the United States, portrays how Jews are shaping the public and private character of Christmas by transforming December into a joyous holiday season belonging to all Americans.
Creative and innovative in approaching the holiday season, these responses range from composing America’s most beloved Christmas songs, transforming Hanukkah into the Jewish Christmas, creating a national Jewish tradition of patronizing Chinese restaurants and comedy shows on Christmas Eve, volunteering at shelters and soup kitchens on Christmas Day, dressing up as Santa Claus to spread good cheer, campaigning to institute Hanukkah postal stamps, and blending holiday traditions into an interfaith hybrid celebration called “Chrismukkah” or creating a secularized holiday such as Festivus.
Through these venerated traditions and alternative Christmastime rituals, Jews publicly assert and proudly proclaim their Jewish and American identities to fashion a universally shared message of joy and hope for the holiday season.
See also: http://www.akosherchristmas.org
About the Author
JOSHUA ELI PLAUT, an ordained rabbi, holds a Ph.D. in Hebrew and Judaic Studies. He is the author of Greek Jewry in the Twentieth Century, 1913–1983 and has documented Jewish life and popular culture through photography, oral history, and ethnography.
"Fascinating. Plaut means so well and covers so much ground. After 207 pages, I am a Hanukkah maven. Ask me anything."
— Elinor Lipman
"With humor and insight Rabbi Joshua Plaut, Ph.D. recounts the meaning of Christmas to American Jews. This 'only in America' account should be read by Jews and non-Jews alike but especially by those of us who have always felt a little bit guilty for enjoying Christmas."
— Alan Dershowitz
"Christmas is our only national holiday founded on religious beliefs, and Plaut, a rabbi and Jewish studies scholar, describes the multitude of creative rituals, activities, and responses Jews have developed to counteract feelings of marginalization and 'transform Christmastime into a holiday season belonging to all Americans.' Plaut offers a quirky, provocative, yet solid study of contemporary Jewish behavior and emerging new forms of popular culture."
— Publishers Weekly
"Hanukkah, a once-obscure Jewish festival that—conveniently falling in December—has been built up to become a response to the 'December dilemma', the puzzle posed for non-Christians by Christmas. The dilemma is no more, suggests Rabbi Plaut. December now features traditions that are both distinctively American and inventively Jewish. And one last Jewish Christmas custom—volunteering to work or help the needy so that Christian neighbours can enjoy the holiday—trumps the rest, distilling the essence of the season."
— The Economist
"In this short, informative and illuminating book, Plaut traces not only the changing attitude of American Jews
to Christmas but the holiday’s symbiotic influence on Hanukkah as well."
"This book is a clever look at the dilemmas presented to us at Christmas, whether in fact we are Jews or not. Many readers will be likely to enjoy it."
— Library Journal
"A Kosher Christmas is a unique observation of American Jewry and the ambivalence Jews face as we simultaneously try to integrate ourselves into American culture, while helping to shape aspects of it at the same time."
— Jewish Book World
"A Kosher Christmas—full of entertaining and intriguing anecdotes and tales of Jews reconciling their traditions and values with the pervasiveness of Christmas culture—is a fast-paced read that anyone who grew up around holiday celebrations of all stripes will enjoy."
— Jerusalem Post Magazine
"Why We Kiss Under Mistletoe And Toast With Eggnog" by NPR's Thomas Lu, Justine Kenin and Sam Gringlas
— NPR's "All Things Considered"
"Why Do Jewish People Eat Chinese Food On Christmas?" interview
— NPR's "All Things Considered"