The following is an excerpt from the forthcoming book, Sure Dad, That’s How It Happened.
One year, my friend Lee invited me to join his family for Christmas. Being a good Jewish boy, this was a holiday I had never celebrated, but was not unfamiliar with its various customs and such. We drove up to his parent’s vacation home to be part of their annual traditions on Christmas Eve, and I was looking forward to sharing in the festivities.
Of course, what does any good self-respecting Catholic do on this hallowed evening? They go to pray, that’s what. So I dutifully donned my tie and jacket and went along with them to this quaint old church in the middle of town. It was packed, so we stood in the back.
Remember, this was all new to me, so I respectfully paid rapt attention. The service seemed easy enough for me to follow, until they began singing rather unfamiliar Christmas songs. At one point, I quietly asked Lee when they were going to sing “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” He shushed me, explaining that they didn’t sing that song in church. Soon after, I innocently asked if the next song would be “Santa Claus is Coming to Town.” Again, he shushed me, saying that it was not a Christmas song, and they didn’t sing it here. Now I’m getting a bit frustrated, as they were both songs that I had been hearing all my life, and I was pretty sure that they were sung around this time of year. So I was confused.
Finally, as the service seemed to be coming to a close, and other songs were being sung, I asked him when they would be singing “The Christmas Song.” By this time, he was clearly getting annoyed, and again said, “Larry, that is not a Christmas song and they don’t sing it here.” You can imagine my shock and surprise, to be told that “The Christmas Song” was not a Christmas song. Well, I knew it wasn’t a Hanukkah song, and I had heard it on the radio countless times every year during the season to be jolly, so to speak.
So, I simply came to the conclusion that, although I always found Judaism to be rather complicated, clearly this religion was even more difficult to understand. To this day, I am rather amazed that “The Christmas Song” isn’t really a Christmas song. Another of life’s many mysteries. Go figure.