December 14, 2010

jessica anya blau’s jewish christmas

  • About the author EB

In the spirit of the holiday season, we’ll have a couple of our authors dropping by with guest posts over the next few weeks. But, since harper perennial books can be a little quirky, and since I myself am decidedly not super-Christmas-y, I’ve asked them to share holiday stories that are light on sweetness and inspiration and heavy on humor and ridiculousness. First up is Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Summer of Naked Swim Parties and the forthcoming Drinking Closer to Home (both of which I love love love) with a tale of some slightly risque Christmases—read all the way to the end to see some of the ornaments Jessica talks about!:

It started out with no trees. Just a present or two on Christmas morning. And then, when I was seven, we moved to California where we lived on a shiny brand new cul de sac with two and three-car garages attached to each home. In December, Christmas lights lit up the neighborhood as if proper holiday lighting was the law.

My brother, sister and I accepted that we’d be the only house without twinkling lights, but there was no way we were going to stand for this no-tree business. We insisted and my father bought a live, potted fir that stood about three feet high above the two-foot pot. The tree was stuck in the family room and that afternoon my mother made special dough that we formed into Christmas Balls with our hands, or cut into shapes with cookie cutters. The dough ornaments were baked in the oven, cooled and then painted.
Ours was a rebellious family, however, so among the dough shapes was a penis my older sister made—it looked like a three-inch pointy baguette with perfectly circular dough balls framing it at the top. Many of the gingerbread man cut-outs were decorated with penises and there were gingerbread women, too, with breasts and large painterly triangles of pubic hair.

While we three kids decorated the tree, my mother sat at the piano and played Christmas carols that we belted out as my father groaned, oy oy oy oy, his hand slapped on his forehead, his face clearly showing the fact that he could not believe that this was his Jewish wife and these were his Jewish children.
The tree was planted in the backyard on the first of January, and every year this process was repeated, with the trees getting a little bigger each Christmas, the ornaments becoming more detailed and complicated (although always a couple of naked gingerbread men thrown in for fun) and the holiday songs getting louder and louder.

After ten years of potted trees, my father gave in and bought a big, dead tree. Every branch was covered with the accumulation of homemade ornaments that had been made over the years. On the top of the tree was a white feathered bird with rhinestones on its open fanned-out tail. The penis ornament, as always, was front and center where it would be sure to catch our friends’ eyes. We must have been out on Christmas vacation already as I remember that everyone in the family was home, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week. There was a knock at the door. My brother went to open it and then he called from the entrance hall, “Dad, the Rabbi’s here!” And boom! my father picked up our first dead tree, our largest tree ever, tree stand and everything, opened the garage door and sailed the thing off onto the oily, cement floor.

Rabbi came in. The room looked funny with an empty spot next to the sliding glass door that looked out onto the deck. There were wrapped presents, scattered strangely as if they’d just been kicked about. Rabbi glanced down at the gifts, looked up at my father and never said a word.

Most of the ornaments survived the trip into the garage. A few naked men and women broke an arm or leg. But the penis ornament, the most sacred ornament of all, survived intact.

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