Random thoughts, comments, observations and general fluff from a random bint who left London at the end of September 2004 to embark on a new life and new adventures in Tokyo, land of the cute.... and is leaving mid-June 2010 - and counting!

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Christmas holidays are approaching

There are a couple of things I love about this time of year. One is how pretty everything looks coated in fallen leaves and, in Japan, unlike in England, the sky tends to stay blue pretty much all the time, even when you are freezing! The other thing I love is the holiday season.

The cold I could live without though.

To skim over some personal history, I've not always felt this way. I used to hate this time of year. I used to become very depressed at this time of year. Until I 'reclaimed Xmas' for myself I hated everything about it.

As a kid this time of year put me under great pressure. Now this is something I haven't ever blogged about before but the time just feels right to do so now as I feel I'm undergoing a transition (more about this another time). I have some friends that are very special to me and who I really don't want to offend with what I'm saying, so I hope this comes out okay. Advance apologies if it doesn't. You know who you are and hopefully you know me enough to know I mean nothing personally by this.

Religion. I don't get 'institutionalised' religions. I just don't get them. I don't understand how people can pick and choose which bits of religion suit them and which don't. And I don't see the necessity people have for. I struggle with labels, especially imposed labels and I have my own set of beliefs that don't fit into any 'box' and never will. They're a bit Pagan, a bit Buddhist perhaps and I don't believe in a 'god' but do I DO believe in an earth force - mother nature or what have you.

Religion to me is a negative thing. Religion equals fighting and hypocrisy and embarrassment. I will never be able to get over this. I AM interested in religions but only in the same way I'm interested in history or anthropology. I want to know, but I don't want to do anything about it. I'm curious, but that's it. I don't understand it and so I'm searching for answers. But that's all. I'm not looking for a religion, if that makes sense.

So, why these feelings? My parents are Jewish. Unfortunately, by Jewish law, this (having a Jewish mother) means that I am Jewish. Why 'unfortunately'? Because, for me, "being Jewish" has been nothing but a negative experience in my life and it's a label I strongly dislike.

As a kid, my first awarenesses of religion were that I was different because of my religion. Can you imagine being forced to go to Sunday school lessons every week? So much so that you were often literally in hysterics or crying before leaving the house? And how, at the least, it meant a weekly blazing row? Can you imagine how it felt to be part of a not particularly well-off one-parent family and to be forced to spend time with Jewish spoiled bitches who had massive houses with swimming pools, tennis courts, etc and who went to private schools. Clearly you can imagine how much a one-parented comprehensively schooled girl would have in common with them. Can you also imagine how it would feel if your mother felt the sun shined out of the bitches arses and how you should be more like them? Oh, and of course I should add that my non-Jewish friends just weren't good enough for me?

Are things becoming a little clearer now?

I got picked on and bullied for being Jewish. I got singled out for being Jewish. I looked Jewish and I hated that SO much.

At the same time, I could see the hypocrisy of what was going on in my own house. How my mother was picking and choosing the bits of the religion that suited her. How I wasn't allowed out on a Friday night because it was a sacred night, but how the next day wouldn't be followed by going to synagogue. How I would feel embarrassed every year when the teacher brought Easter eggs in for all the class but how I had to say no because I wasn't allowed to eat chocolate over Passover. How I had to skip a couple of days at the beginning of the school year each year to 'celebrate' Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur?

Can you imagine arguing over what YOU wanted to eat?

Actually, can you imagine arguing over everything? Because that pretty much sums up my childhood and teenage years.

Going back to Christmas then. Christmas and Rosh Hashana (Google if you don't know the Jewish festivals, I can't be arsed to explain them - I just don't care enough) fall at the same time of year. Rosh Hashana means eight days of presents. Christmas means lots of presents. I always got both. And we always had a big Christmas dinner with the works - minus the bacon, obviously. BUT it was tinged with - and this sounds pretty stupid now, but remember we're talking about a kid / teen who just wanted to fit in with her friends and not be seen as different -the embarrassment/jealousy at not being allowed a Christmas tree. Again, more arguments.

I have absolutely no contact with any of my family. With my father this has been about 23 years. With my mother this has been about 16 years. This is as it is. It won't change. It's easier like this.

My mother and I NEVER saw eye to eye. We were as alike as chalk and cheese. We had nothing in common and no common ground to meet on. Apart from personalities, there were two major reasons for this. One was my father, of which I'm not saying any more in this post, and the other was RELIGION.

So, to sum up what I've just been saying: I always hated Christmas as a kid and teen because of how stressed it used to make me feel.

As an adult it got worse though. Whereas I would have been happiest to just forget about it, for many years I was put under pressure by well-meaning friends to spend Christmas with them and their families as it was such a bad thing to be on your own at Christmas. Can you imagine how that felt? Being pressured to enjoy yourself and being made ever more aware of what you had missed out on as a kid? - ie both Christmas AND a 'normal' family? And how rubbed in it felt every year that Christmas was a time for families but that you didn't have one? But it was okay cos you could enjoy someone elses?

Every year I started dreading the Christmas period more and more. I would get very depressed. I'd cry. I just hated it.

And then suddenly one year I decided to fuck it all. I decided to reclaim Christmas for ME. I decided to celebrate the fact it meant some downtime and some me time and some not working time that I could just relax and re-energise to. At that point I decided that the Christmas period WAS something to look forward to. As long as I could do it MY WAY.

The last few years, I've spent the holiday period ON holiday, enjoying the sun, meeting new people, collecting good memories and good experiences. I always look forward to this time of year now because it's MY time of year and it's full of good memories.

I think it's probably about 7 years since this time of year made me full of hopelessness and sadness.

P.S. on the subject of religion, have you seen this, with Marcus Brigstock? Absolutely hilarious, in my opinion. DO watch it!

Oh and in four days time I'm a gonna be in BANGKOK!

Nay - that should be in TWO DAYS I'm flying away from the Tokyo coldness for 19 days sunshine.


Blogger Sigsy said...

Fab post Jo.
I think you are very very brave to cut your family off and very very strong to keep that going.
And good on you for claiming the holidays for yourself. Sounds like you are on the up and up. Life is about constant change and seems like you had your share.
Thanks for sharing.
And for the record, my mother was seen every Christmas crying into the turkey about what a selfish ungrateful family she had and what had she done to deserve such nasty ungrateful kids, while at the same time, often in the same breath saying she just wanted Christmas to be perfect. mmm.

Have a GREAT time in the SE and I'll see you for our scheduled dinner in the new year!

You know what, you have inspired me to have a BRILLIANT Christmas! Tomorrow I go and get April the best present EVER. Love.

10:32 pm

Blogger Sigsy said...

oh i love the marcus brigstock thing! i saw him live a few years back!

10:37 pm

Blogger Caro said...

Great post, and well done for reclaiming Christmas the way you want it.

9:55 pm

Blogger Jo said...

Thanks girls. I was SO unsure about whether or not to make this post.

And, Sigsy, yes - constant change. It's nice that things are settling down a bit, although I still haven't found where 'home' is.

Still, I'm getting out of the coldness of Tokyo for 19 days, so who cares about anything else!

10:24 pm

Anonymous Adhaerens said...


link exchange?

9:57 pm

Blogger The Pixy Princess said...

Do I dare after this to wish you a Happy Christmas after all?

Let me modify that to - Happiness, in general!

Hope you're having a great Holiday - can't wait to see pics and hear all about it.

Sigsy - I hear you about the "Mom Attack" I'm still going through it! *sigh*

7:06 am

Anonymous Jennifer said...

Hi Jo!
I'm a bit behind so only caught up with this post just now. I really respect your opinion as well as your experience, both of family and of religion. I think that experience is shared by many, of not fitting in. There aren't ANY perfect families. As for religion, you know me... ;-) I am fascinated by Judaism, but I too hate being forced to do or think or say something that isn't true for me so I can relate to how you feel about that. I hope that you will find that place called Home, and I tell you what, I am looking for exactly the same thing... Not so easy when you can't settle in your own country. Good luck to us both, and many warm hugs to you!
see you Sat'day!

7:08 pm

Blogger Jo said...

thanks jen. i was worried about pissing you off. glad to see i didn't.

looking forward to saturday too.


11:29 pm


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