Day 25: At that time an orthodox Jew celebrated Christmas

The first and only time Alex Edelman’s family celebrated Christmas, their tree was not topped with a star, but with a teddy bear wearing a kippah.

Mr. Edelman, who was 7 or 8 years old at the time – he doesn’t remember the exact year – also wore a kippah. All of his male family members were. Mr. Edelman, 33, was raised in an Orthodox Jewish home in Brookline, Mass. and he says his family’s one-night affair with Christmas, which he chronicled with scathing precision on his recent off-Broadway comedy show Just For Us, was a thoroughly Jewish endeavor.

The story has become a regular part of Mr. Edelman’s comedy routine: A gentile friend of Mr. Edelman’s mother had a tragic year and had no one to celebrate Christmas with. So Mr. Edelman’s mother decided that regardless of her religion, she would do it mitzvah – the Jewish concept of a good deed – and invite them to celebrate with them. Of course she needed stockings, cookies for Santa Claus and that ever so important tree.

“So we had Christmas,” Mr. Edelman says of his act. “We did a pretty good job for Jews. We went all out except no pig. Kosher Christmas.”

In adorning their halls, Mr. Edelman said they were performing an essential Jewish act: welcoming the stranger into their home with love and open hearts.

On Christmas morning, Mr. Edelman and his younger brother opened presents with their parents and Kate, their Gentile friend, who had stayed the night and gone to bed enthusiastic about the celebration. The brothers then made their way to school as the Jewish day school they attended was not closed on Christmas Day. Later that evening, her father received a call from the headmaster, who was deeply concerned. Apparently, the Edelman brothers had told other students that Santa had come to their home. Why would the Edelmans let Christmas into their lives? Mr. Edelman’s father was quick to reply: Apparently, he told the principal, you don’t understand the true meaning of Christmas.

“It was a moment of great parenting. Not to give too much credit to my parents, but to give all credit to my parents,” Mr. Edelman said in an interview. “The only thing that is universally Jewish is intentionality. You cannot have Judaism without purpose. And what’s so Jewish about that event is that there was so much empathy but also so much intention when my parents made that decision.”

Today, the story remains Mr. Edelman’s favorite comedic part of his show, “because afterward, people tell me their own stories of human goodness,” he said. “It highlights what I love about my Jewish values, with empathy as the true North. It is a good demonstration of how Jewish values ​​can be applicable even when celebrating Christmas.”

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