Before I even knew criticizing How The Grinch Stole Christmas! for anti-Jewish tropes was a thing, I used to troll my mom by asking her why there were no Jewish Whos. Like, why did they all celebrate Christmas? Wasn’t anyWho a Muslim? An atheist? A conscientious objector? And, how did The Grinch even make a Santa costume when he only cut one side of the pattern? Like many, many things about me, that just made my mom sigh and roll her eyes. Now, it’s been four years since she died, and many more since we celebrated Christmas together.
I’m coming up on my seventh Christmas in Turkey, which has a winter holiday season that’s a lot more similar to America’s than you might think. Here, Western Christmas traditions, straight down to Santa Claus, have been transplanted to New Year’s. My dad, stepmom and I have a nice dinner every year cause I freaked out after my first Christmas here. I had gone to work, come home to a dark house with no one here and lost it. So, now we celebrate Christmas. But, the thing that I can’t replicate is the rituals of childhood (especially since my brother and sister-in-law are in California).
For more than twenty years of my life, every Christmas Eve, we’d gather around the television to watch the 1966 classic Dr. Seuss’s How The Grinch Stole Christmas!. Now, in an effort to take myself back, I load up nostalgia on my laptop and relax with the sonorous voice of Boris Karloff.
“I must stop Christmas from coming … but how?”… I can still hear my mom reciting every line along with the Grinch and Cindy-Lou Who. The truth is, I cannot pretend that my mother and I had a particularly chummy relationship in the last few years of her life. There’s an odd mix of love, fondness and guilt that comes with remembrance. I could have done better — we could have done better. I can’t change that, but I can try to hold onto the good stuff. Isn’t that what the winter holidays are? A candle in the darkness?
“Welcome, Christmas, bring your light.” The whole message of The Grinch is that Christmas isn’t about presents or giant feasts but, rather, togetherness since I guess the Seuss never brings up Jesus. And, since only half our household was Christian, that’s how it was for us too. It resonates. Togetherness, right? Love. I mean, it’s sort of undercut by the fact that Grinchypoo brings back all the material objects he stole as Bad Santa. But Who Christmas does allow his heart to literally grow. The point being, The Grinch is part of my healing process, part of the way I honor my mom and the tricky relationship we had. Watching it has grown from a way to hold on to childhood to something much, much more.
We also used to watch Rudolph every year, but that’s just a little too problematic and triggering for me to deal with these days. All right. Here’s to you, Mom. Merry Christmas, wherever you are.
“Christmas Day will always be, just as long as we have we.”
This article was originally published 12/11/20