The Santa Secret

There were not many Jewish children in the DC suburb where I grew up. There was me and my little brother; I didn’t really meet other Jewish kids  until I started going to Hebrew school in the fourth grade. My elementary school was very typically suburban (not a lot of Jews, way too many boys with the exact same haircut ) and my strange schedule—High Holy days were excused absences, but school wasn’t closed—confused my non-Jewish friends.
But as much as the Jewish calendar confused them, their strange holidays confused me even more. Who was this Santa dude? And why didn’t he ever come visit me?
The Hanukkah Tree; aka the craft
for the only Jewish child in the
first grade class. 
As I grew older, I learned more and more about Christmas. It’s basically impossible not to. I helped my best friend and her family decorate their Christmas tree. I sang carols in school, and every winter my mom would load us all in to the car with thermoses of hot chocolate and drive us around to look at all of the Christmas lights. We liked the crazy ones. The miss matched, loud and vibrant. Inflatables and plastic toys and rows and rows of decorations.
At this stage in the game, my parents realized they had to say something about Santa. So, they did what all good parents apparently do during the holiday season—they made up a ridiculous lie.
My parents told us—for years!—and we believed them!—that there was a giant red X on the roof of our house. This way Santa knew we were Jewish, and that he didn’t need to bother with our chimney on Christmas Eve. Similarities to the Passover story aside, this was a very convincing story for me when I was young. It made sense; I knew I was nice and not naughty so there was no way Santa would skip me of his own volition.
This fiction didn’t last forever, of course. For one thing, I soon realized that  there was no way either of my parents ever went up on our roof, so that possibility was out. For another, the other Jewish kids didn’t seem to know about this whole red X thing. That seemed suspicious.
Eventually my parents cracked. They explained to me that Santa wasn’t real, but I was under no circumstances to tell this to any of the children I went to school with that weren’t Jewish. I felt important knowing this secret, and I played my part well. I’d do the Christmas crafts at school with a knowing glint in my eye. I’d never call out when our teacher read us Christmas stories.
It’s interesting to hear other non-Christmas-celebrating kids explain the ways their parents made sure they didn’t spoil Santa. It’s cute how hard everyone tries to preserve that little bit of magic. The parents who promised treats for keeping the secret. The weird stories about why Santa only visits specific houses. The red X on the roof.

This proves a couple of things. First, that winter time is kind of magical.  Even for those of us that don’t get the whole holiday cheer thing, there’s an extra spark in the air that makes us just a little kinder; just a little more likely to try and make someone else’s holidays great. And second, that Christian parents don’t have a monopoly on lying to their children about Santa.  Mine managed to pull that one off too.

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