I was going to write a reply to the discussion about the Jews and Christmas trees, but then I thought that there is no point in doing so: everyone who wants a tree in their house probably will have one, and all others will probably find a reason why they won’t. My only contribution is that you haven’t lived until you smelled a real pine tree inside your house. Just call it a winter tree, New Year’s Tree or a wreath and bring one into your living room.
During the first half of my life, we always had a tree for the New Year holiday. My Jewish Father, who spent a part of his childhood in the ghetto, made sure to find the biggest tree to fit through the door. Having a tree doesn’t make you any less Jewish, and, for certain, it doesn’t reduce the amount of antisemitism directed at you. Not the “someone looked at me funny” antisemitism, but a real, hardcore, state-sponsored harassment.
The tree of my childhood wasn’t associated with anything religious (definitely not for me), but it still had lights, presents and a five-point red star on top.
Most of all it meant a holiday, our whole family staying up till midnight to listen to the the tower clock on Moscow Kremlin to strike twelve. Only recently I discovered that the Tree wasn’t approved by the Soviet State until a communist party official Pavel Postyshev* published the following article in Pravda in December of 1935 (translation mine):
In the prerevolutionary times, the bourgeoisie and bureaucrats always decorated a Tree for their children to celebrate the New Year. Children of the working class had to peek through the windows with envy at the sparkling Tree with colorful lights and the rich children playing around it.
Why do our schools, orphanages, nurseries, clubs, palaces of the pioneers deprive the children of the Soviet workers of this beautiful holiday? It must have been those on the extreme left, who have decried this children’s celebration as a bourgeois idea.
We should stop condemning the Tree which is actually great fun for the children. Komsomol, the pioneer organization should arrange collective Trees for the children to celebrate the New Year. In the schools, orphanages, in the Palaces of Pioneers, children’s clubs, children’s movies and theaters – everywhere there should be the Trees for the children! There should be no collective farm left, where the management, along with the members of Komsomol would not decorate a Tree for their children. Every City Council, local executives, village councils, education authorities should help establishing the Soviet Tree for the children of our great socialist motherland.
Our children will only be grateful for the Tree.
I am convinced that the members of Komsomol will be very active in this matter and will stamp out the absurd view that children’s Tree is a bourgeois prejudice.
So, let’s organize a fun New Year for the children and provide a good Soviet Tree in all the towns and collective farms!
*Pavel Postyshev was executed in 1938.
So what was I celebrating all these years? Christmas? New Year? Some Communist-reinvented holiday?
In my mind it doesn’t make any difference. I will be next to a Tree again this year, even if it’s wrong ideologically, religiously and otherwise.
All of us need a holiday when we don’t have to observe, pray, remember the reason, fast, avoid, or follow. Instead we can use a day when nothing else is required but to look back to the past year and hope the next one is better, happier, healthier, wealthier and sexier (for some of us).
As always, I wish the best to all who had time to read this blog, comment, meet me in person, on Facebook and Twitter. All of you are a huge part of my life.
Happy New Year!