December is a solid month-long reminder to any Jew of their overwhelming Yidness. As we walk down the tinsel-decorated streets and hear the Salvation Army guys ring their bells, we are aware. But perhaps nothing reminds us of our difference from the rest of the holiday consumer bunch than SHOPPING.
In my experience, there are three holiday shopping challenges faced by the New York Jew. You may be familiar with these.
Challenge #1: Soundtrack
We are made aware of the start of the holiday shopping season sometime in early November by a red-nosed thing named Rudolph, or more specifically, by whatever low-level manager is in charge of picking the music to be played at Macy’s throughout the month. You know what I’m talking about.
If you like Christmas jingles, fantastic for you. You will positively love the cheerful bells that will greet you every time you run out of milk or need a new pair of shoes. But if you don't like the music, or if (like me) you have no issue with most of 'em but possess a strange, quasi-demonic hatred for one...stupid...tune, you know this situation:
It doesn't bother you at first, but after your second or third trip to a place with a shopping cart, it starts to grate on you...
...which is fine, so long as you're not the type that shops very often...
Okay. Now you're doomed to hum the tune for the rest of the month, whether or not you actually ever hear it again. I'm pretty sure this rule applies to any catchy song you happen to dislike, or even one you have no problem with that popular radio stations have decided they like this week. But the thing with HOLIDAY songs, is that they come back every year. And if you're one of those who dislike the tunes, that first trip to the store in November symbolizes nothing short of decibel doom for you.
Challenge #2: Season's Greetings
You've shopped. You've paid, and the perky saleslady hands you your merchandise with a big toothy grin and a warm, pleasant:
Depending on your disposition, you have several options:
For the nice and/or indifferent people:
Option 1: "You too!"
Option 2: "Thank you!"
Option 3: Awkwardly toy with your Magen David/Tzitzit/Yarmulke and hope she notices. When she doesn't, see options 1 & 2.
For the annoyed/mean/irritable/really hate December people:
Option 1: "I don't celebrate Christmas, but you enjoy your holiday."
Option 2: "And a Happy Chanukah to you too!"
Option 3: "We don't have Christmas in my cult. But while we're on the subject, have you wondered lately, are you really happy?"
Obviously I don't recommend these latter ones. Be nice to your shopkeepers, customer service people, and waiters. Especially waiters. Those people control your food.
And my favorite of all the challenges:
Challenge #3: The Dreidel Socks
You are in a huge store, probably a department store, seeing row after row after aisle of red and green products, many of which sparkle, sing and dance, or both. Then suddenly, out of the corner of your eye, you spot a tiny hint of blue:It's an insignificant, cheaply made and/or overpriced product, probably a tin of cookies, a hand towel, or a pair of socks. But still, it's the only blue thing in the store! And so you are compelled to look closer...Socks. Dreidel socks. And then the unavoidable question arises: