The Real Truth About Santa Claus

By Daniel Berman

Published December 15, 2010, issue of December 24, 2010.
  • Print
  • Share Share

I was raised Jewish in a suburb outside Atlanta. Being Jewish in the South during the 1980s and ’90s was such a difficult task. It left me sympathetic to Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and how he must have felt while being ostracized and excluded from all the “reindeer games.” I myself was never invited to any of the “games” in my neighborhood, and I am prone to believe that this, too, had something to do with my nose (although mine did not glow).

iStock

In Marietta, Ga., most of my friends, neighbors and teachers were Christian; even my synagogue’s rabbi was a Protestant. Well, one of his ex-wives was, at least. Back then, the most difficult time to be a Jew awash in a sea of gentiles was around the holiday season. The majority of Georgians celebrated Christmas, and Christmas was amazing — especially to a child, regardless of denomination. Everyone knows Hanukkah doesn’t hold a candle to Christmas. Well, actually, the Hanukkah menorah holds nine candles, but to a small child, it still stinks in comparison. While we have dreidels, potato latkes and Hanukkah gelt, they have Christmas lights, Christmas trees and the most amazing part: Santa Claus.

I remember when I was 6 years old, my mom took me to the mall the week before Christmas, and there he was. He had rosy cheeks and a big beard; I was in awe as I asked my mom if I could sit on Santa’s lap. My mom looked down at me and said, “Honey, we’re Jewish; we don’t believe in Santa.” I said, “Mom, everyone else gets to sit on his lap — Chris, Mark and Scott.” It must have been a convincing tantrum, because my mom shrugged her shoulders and said, “What’s the harm?”

So we waited in line, and when I finally got to Santa’s lap, he asked me if I’d been a good boy. I said, “Yes.” He asked me my name, and I said, “Danny.” He said, “Okay, Danny, what do you want for Christmas?” I said, “I don’t want anything for Christmas, Santa.” He replied, “What do you mean you don’t want anything for Christmas?” I said, “Well, Santa, I am Jewish.”

This is no lie. Santa Claus pulled me close and whispered in my ear, “Me too, kid.”

That’s when I found out Santa was a Jew. I went to school the next day, bragging to all my friends. I was like: “Santa’s Jewish, Jesus is Jewish, Sammy Davis Jr. is Jewish…. You guys have no one.”

That was years ago, but cut to the other day in Brooklyn. I was on the subway, and I saw a little boy about the same age as I was when I met Santa. He sat with his mother, and across from them was a large, old Hasidic man. The little boy said, “Mama, why is that man so fat?” The embarrassed mom tried to quiet him, albeit unsuccessfully. Then the boy said: “Mama, why does he have such a long beard? Why is he so old?” The Hasidic man leaned over to the little boy and said, in an accent rivaling the Borsch Belt comedian Jackie Mason: “Oy vey! What, you’ve never seen Santa Claus in person before?”

So apparently, Santa is systematically touring the world, telling one little boy at a time that he is a Jew. It appears he is much more serious about the religion now than when I was a child. Now he is a Hasid.

Daniel Berman is a freelance writer, producer, animator and actor in New York.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • A grumpy Jewish grandfather is wary of his granddaughter's celebrating Easter with the in-laws. But the Seesaw says it might just make her appreciate Judaism more. What do you think?
  • “Twist and Shout.” “Under the Boardwalk.” “Brown-Eyed Girl.” What do these great songs have in common? A forgotten Jewish songwriter. We tracked him down.
  • What can we learn from tragedies like the rampage in suburban Kansas City? For one thing, we must keep our eyes on the real threats that we as Jews face.
  • When is a legume not necessarily a legume? Philologos has the answer.
  • "Sometime in my childhood, I realized that the Exodus wasn’t as remote or as faceless as I thought it was, because I knew a former slave. His name was Hersh Nemes, and he was my grandfather." Share this moving Passover essay!
  • Getting ready for Seder? Chag Sameach! http://jd.fo/q3LO2
  • "We are not so far removed from the tragedies of the past, and as Jews sit down to the Seder meal, this event is a teachable moment of how the hatred of Jews-as-Other is still alive and well. It is not realistic to be complacent."
  • Aperitif Cocktail, Tequila Shot, Tom Collins or Vodka Soda — Which son do you relate to?
  • Elvis craved bacon on tour. Michael Jackson craved matzo ball soup. We've got the recipe.
  • This is the face of hatred.
  • What could be wrong with a bunch of guys kicking back with a steak and a couple of beers and talking about the Seder? Try everything. #ManSeder
  • BREAKING: Smirking killer singled out Jews for death in suburban Kansas City rampage. 3 die in bloody rampage at JCC and retirement home.
  • Real exodus? For Mimi Minsky, it's screaming kids and demanding hubby on way down to Miami, not matzo in the desert.
  • The real heroines of Passover prep aren't even Jewish. But the holiday couldn't happen without them.
  • Is Handel’s ‘Messiah’ an anti-Semitic screed?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.