Ah Christmas, that sacred time when everyone returns home so they can spend quality time with the ones they love, and then instantly remember why they moved so far away from them in the first place, (not me, mom, every second with my family is a gift). I know that for many of you this is the most wonderful time of the year, but when I was growing up, Christmas time felt about as pleasurable as getting a Brazilian wax from Edward Scissorhands.

The thing that really drives me crazy, besides the endless loops of Jingle Bell Rock and the pervnado of Santa’s lurking behind every corner, is that it feels like I’m trapped in a continuous Groundhog Day loop year after year and, like Bill Murray, I’m ready to do about anything to make it stop, including dropping a toaster in my bathtub to escape.

“But Zoe, you have Chaunkkah! Isn’t that fun? Instead of one night of presents don’t you get 8 crazy nights?” My drunk, carroll-lovin’, tree-killin’, eggnog-chugging, Christian friends might say.

No, it’s not. It’s medium fun at best, and here’s why: Chanukah is a holiday Jews have fluffed up to try to compete with Christmas and yes we have eight nights, but it’s usually full of cruel jokes instead of presents, like a rock of Pyrite or a half-eaten sack of stale chocolate coins, or the most dreaded gifts of all, the hypothetical ones that are supposed to help the state of Israel; like the 25 year bonds that somehow never mature, or a tree planted in your honor in Mount Olive.* I used to imagine this genius Jew who made up this fake company compiling all of what could have been actual gift money into some tree you could never prove was planted, in Israel. Whoever you are, Mordecai, the Madoff of trees, Mazel Tov. I don’t like you, but I respect your hustle.

“Hold on, what about that fun, spinny, top-thing you play? You know when you get to win money and I know you Jews like that,” your happy, golden retriever-colored, 90’s Tommy Hilfiger catalog lookin’, Christmas card making friends may say. Listen lassie, Dreidel makes no sense and is no fun. Here are the rules: each “player” puts fake gold coins in a circle, and then spins a weird- shaped Hebrew-lettered toy, and then one of four things happens, 1. Nothing 2. You lose everything. 3. You get one coin. 4. You get all the coins. It’s the worst and I’m 93 % positive this game was created to train young young Jews to want to be investment bankers so they can finally get their hands on real gold coins for once.

I know what you may be thinking: Zoe you’re just a horrible Grinch, take your Bah Humbugs and shove them up your Menorah. Actually, I love Christmas! It’s a beautiful Holy day where I get to buy scarf sets and foot hot tubs for everyone in my family. Life is scary and confusing and not at all what I thought it would be, and this is the one time that feels safe and controlled, where I can look back at my childhood through rose-colored glasses.

Well goody for you. But if you, like me, don’t believe in it; or have just gone through a painful breakup or are so broke that you cannot afford to travel to see the ones you love, let alone buy presents for them, Christmas is about as much fun as watching your parents use a double-sided dildo.

I can’t beat it and I won’t join it, so instead, I’ve developed a couple of coping mechanisms to deal with my Christmas allergy. Mostly centering around stepping up my charity game. Helping others during the holidays, in my opinion, is the best way to stop from drinking yourself into a stupor so great you could tell tales of woe at NA meetings and even the most fucked-up carnie with two caramel colored teeth would shake his/her head out of respect.

So if you’re feeling down this Holiday season, let me offer you my humble learnings during all these years of Scrooge-hood. It’s very simple: stop comparing yourself to others and be grateful for what you already have. Trying to love your family members despite knowing them so well, is hard enough, let alone competing with all the perfectly manicured Christmas cards** you get in the mail. Donating time, money, food and love to people who need it is what I think Christ would have wanted his birthday to be about.

As for me, I will be spending this Christmas, eating dim sum with my fellow Jews in packed Chinese restaurants, followed by movies in nearly empty theatres with a ragtag team of pound puppy friends….as is tradition.

Here’s a list of  the best places I’ve found to give back to:

  1. Direct Relief
  2. The Bowery Mission
  3. Mercy For Animals
  4. Picture the Homeless
  5. Glasswing.org
  6. Kiva
  7. Parties For Peace 
  8. Narrative 4

*These are actual presents I have gotten from my parents. Do you have any idea how cruel it is to give small children trick money that doesn’t even taste good?

**Christmas cards were the O.G. way people lied before Instagram. I bet if you could get the real story behind some of these photos it would sound something like this: “Mommy and daddy don’t love each other anymore and mommy has an online shopping addiction because daddy has been sleeping with my male social studies teacher and my brother is addicted to the Oxy’s that he’s been stealing out Grandma’s medicine cabinet, but I got a Tickle Me Elmo so that oughta fix it.”

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