Christmas the day that Diaspora Jews feel Jewish

Whether it is the 'Matzoball' or eating Chinese food, Jews have created a counterculture to celebrate their own 'otherness' in the U.S.

Raphael Poch,

(Illustration)
(Illustration)
Lior Mizrahi/Flash 90

When it comes to Jews living in the diaspora, nothing says Jewish as much as not fitting in. And no day sees more Jews sidelined from social events, being forced to take vacation, and suffer even if they stay home due to the constant encroachment of Christian themed TV broadcasts, radio jingles and even internet ads on social media than Christmas.

Christmas may be the single most defining day of the year for Jewish culture. One in which Jews the Western hemisphere over feel like they are just different.

Last year Adam Chandler, reporter for the Atlantic, made quite a stir as he wrote about the cultural phenomenon of Jews across the United States going out to eat Chinese food on the Pagan-turned Christian holiday. His article was so popular and picked up by so many other news outlets, that a media site posted a short blog post by Evan McMurry claiming that Every Website Has a ‘Why Do Jews Eat Chinese Food on Christmas?’ Article, that came complete with the screenshots and links to prove it.

The cultural phenomenon of Jews eating Chinese food on Christmas certainly exists, and it is little wonder that two of the more vibrant minorities in the United States that do not celebrate Christmas should link up in one fashion or another. As Chandler correctly pointed out, “the two groups were linked not only by proximity, but by otherness.”

However, there are plenty of other subculture events that Jews participate in what has become a tradition during the Christmas break. The largest and most widely known, of course, is “The Matzoball.”

The Matzoball is a Jewish singles celebration of "otherness" where young Jewish singles in cities across the United States get together and throw a counter-party on the night before Christmas, otherwise known as Christmas eve.

According to The Matzoball website, The Matzoball began 29 years ago as an annual Jewish singles event taking place on Christmas Eve in multiple cities across the US.

The reasoning given behind the event is that Jews simply had nothing else to do, as everything was geared towards celebrating Christmas. “Young Jews would find themselves on vacation with nothing to do on a night where practically everything was closed. This posed a problem because even staying at home was not an option – everything on the Television and radio was geared toward the celebration of Christmas! So why not throw a big party where all your friends could get together and mingle, socialize and network?”

Taking Jewish innovation to its highest level of counter-culturalism, the event was created, and has been going strong, for nearly three decades.

Twenty-nine years and innumerable friendships, hookups and marriages later, the Matzoball is now an American Jewish institution, and has expanded from just one calendar night a year to events year round as well as travel opportunities. Matzoball is a project of the Society for Young Jewish Professionals.

The International Business Times even published a list of things to do for Jews on Christmas as a handy guide of how to "not-celebrate" the holiday.  

Seemingly, this counter-culture "celebration" has become more than simply in vogue - it has become a point of identification for even the most assimilated Jews in the United States. A time which Chandler again accurately describes as being one that Jews are reminded of their Jewishness. “Jewish Christmas, in many ways, could very much be seen as a modern affirmation of faith. After all, there are few days that remind American Jews of their Jewishness more than Christmas in the United States.”




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