© 1997 Akiva and Ilene Miller. Permission is granted to copy and recirculate, but only for free, and only if we get the credit (or blame!)
To get the nicely-formatted Word6 version, write me at KGMiller@DatacorInc.com

Have you ever wondered what Xmas would be like it if were a Jewish holiday?



  1. Preparations for XMas must not begin(1) before thanksgiving(2). This applies to preparations which affect the holiday mood(3), but not those which are done in private(4).
(1) This contrasts sharply with Shabbos, for the mitzva of honoring Shabbos applies all week long. For example, if one finds a particularly good food during the week, one should save it for Shabbos even though it is now only Sunday and Shabbos is a week away. However, Xmas preparations may not begin too far in advance, in order to fulfill the dictum, "It's beginning to look a lot like Xmas."
(2) This is because of the principle that two festive occasions should not be mixed into each other. Note the decree of the great R.H. Macy, who established that Santa Claus may not appear in the Thanksgiving Day parade until after all the other floats have passed.
(3) Such as setting up the Xmas tree (some say even buying one,) or playing holiday music on the Muzak.
(4) Such as buying gifts or buying the Xmas dinner turkey. Cooking the turkey may not be done before Thanksgiving because it will appear to be a Thanksgiving turkey.
  1. Some hold that the tree should be decorated immediately after thanksgiving(5), but others prefer to decorate it as close to XMas as possible(6).
(5) For the mitzva of "adding to the yom tov" by beginning the Xmas season early.
(6) As it is said, "Do not put off for tomorrow, that which can be put off for the day after tomorrow."


  1. Any species of tree is kosher for use as a XMas tree, provided that it has needles and not leaves. In our lands it is customary to use a fir tree(7). It should be reasonable fresh, but not too fresh, in accordance with the principle "A XMas tree with no fallen needles is like a Sukkah with no buzzing bees."
(7) If the lady of the house already has a fur, then any evergreen may be used.
  1. The tree should be chopped down specifically for use as a xmas tree; if it had been cut for lumber it is invalid. If the tree was cut for general decorative purposes, but not specifically as a xmas tree, some authorities allow it while others are strict. A stolen tree is not valid for the mitzvah.(8) Fortunate is one who is able to chop his own tree himself.(9)
(8) One who cuts his own tree must make sure that he has permission from the landowner to do so. Ideally, cut only from one's own backyard. A tree taken from a reshus harabim, such as the county park (which is actually a carmelis, not a reshus harabim,) is considered as stolen and pasul.
(9) One who is unable to cut his own tree should make sure to purchase it from a reputable dealer, or one who is certified by a national kashrus organization.
  1. During the shmitta year, a jew may not cut the tree down, but it should be done by a gentile. However, since the tree is inedible, the problems of "kedushas shviis" which apply to the esrog do not apply to the xmas tree.
  2. The tree must be bright green. Bright red, or a mixture of green and red, is also acceptable for a xmas tree(10), but brown is not. There may be one brown spot near the bottom of the tree,(11) but in the top half of the tree, even one brown spot will passul the tree. A truly pious person will make sure to bring along a xmas tree expert when he goes to look for his tree.(12)
(10) Because such trees do not grow red naturally, many Sefaradim adorn the tree with red poinsettia flowers. Ashkenazim prefer poinsettas.
(11) Or even two, provided they are on opposite sides so they cannot be both seen at the same time.
(12) But it is more macho to pretend to be an expert and pick the tree out himself.
  1. The required height of the tree is subject to many rules. an indoor tree must be tall enough so that it reaches within 3 tefachim of the ceiling.(13) an outdoor tree must be at least 20 amos tall.
(13) Where local fire codes prohibit the use of such large trees, a smaller tree - even a bonsai - may be used, provided it has toy people around it who will make it appear tall.
  1. The law is "etz ish u'beito" - one tree for a man and his home. This teaches that individuals must have a xmas tree at their home, and that the main function of the tree is for the benefit of the family, but public places are exempt. If one wishes to place his personal tree in a public location he may do so, but he will not have fulfilled his obligation unless it is truly seen by the public. In this case, "seen by the public" means that the tree is large enough that it is shown on the local tv news reports.(14)
(12) This is the origin of the custom of the great tree in Rockefeller Center, where a shaliach from Lubavitch lights the tree just before sunset on Erev Xmas, and is then returned to Crown Heights by an NYPD helicopter in time for the dinner meal.
  1. In recent years, there has been a great controversy over the use of manufactured trees. L'halacha, some hold they are pasul,(15) while other authorities hold they are valid.(16) L'maaseh, however, even the lenient opinions hold that artificial trees are too tacky, and thus violate the principle of "hadar". But if one has already met his obligation by displaying at least one kosher xmas tree, he may have additional trees of any kind, natural or not.(17)
(15) Based on the pasuk "Etz chayim hee" ("A tree is alive"), teaching that even if it looks like a tree, it still cannot be a tree unless it was alive at some point.
(16) Based on the pasuk "Etz chayim hee" ("It is a tree of life"), teaching that some trees have life, and others do not necessarily have life.
(17) Similarly, manufactured trees are acceptable in malls, offices, and other exempt public places.
  1. Originally, the law was that the tree must be displayed so that it would be visible to passers-by outside the home. Over the centuries, as persecutions increased, the people inside the home became the main audience. Even so, it should be displayed in a prominent area of the house, to show respect for this mitzvah. When possible, it should preferably be by a window where it could be viewed from the street, to continue the original practice.


  1. As with all mitzvos, the tree should be tastefully(18) decorated. Popcorn tastes excellent, and some string popcorn together (with needle and thread)(19) to make long chains which are wrapped around the tree.
(18) In order to keep children actively interested and participating in all the goings-on, "tasteful" is defined by the youngest person in the household. This generally results in displaying all sorts of holiday projects in school, no matter how tacky or amateurishly done, giving great prominence to "artwork" which is normally allowed nowhere but the refrigerator door.
(19) To remind us of the pasuk, "We're all connected." (Nynex)
  1. There are many different minhagim regarding the decorations. The more decorated the tree, the better. one must be careful to make sure the decorations are put on symmetrically.(20)
(20) This is derived from the law that one's head tefillin must be in the exact middle of one's head, and the similarity of the words "tefillin" and "tree fallen".
  1. Tree decorations are considered "muktza l'mitzvasa", "set aside for its mitzva", and may not be used for any personal use until after xmas is over.(21) For example, edible decorations may not be eaten until after xmas. Similarly, since they may not be used for personal use, any decorations which fall from the tree on shabbos or on yom tov may not be replaced(22) until after shabbos or yom tov.
(21) See Siman 9 below for opinons regarding when Xmas actually ends.
(21) Or even handled.


  1. One is obligated to buy presents, regardless of his income level, for every person that he has ever spoken to in his entire life and their immediate family members. One may go into serious debt in order to carry out this mitzvah. Presents may be exchanged at any convenient time during december up until the 25th.
  2. Regarding a child whose birthday occurs on or around xmas, some say to give him a double portion of gifts,(23) and others say to give him a single portion.(24) some resolve this by getting him a normal number of gifts, but they would be double in size or value.(25)
(23) Which may cause others to feel cheated.
(24) Which will surely cause him to feel cheated.
(25) Another idea has been to celebrate "Xmas in August". See Rabbi Edward's opinion below, in section 9:2.


  1. "When december arrives, office productivity decreases".(26) Beginning at 9:00 am on the monday prior to xmas, all real office work stops.(27) In order to maintain the illusion of doing real work, employees busy themselves with tasks such as the company newsletter, or planning the office "holiday party".
(26) As it is said, "It's a slow time of year."
(27) When that Monday is Erev Xmas itself, this work stoppage is moved up to the preceding Monday.
  1. It is a requirement that all companies conduct an annual "holiday party" each year. This had been called a "xmas party" until 1972, when the supreme court ruled it to be a discriminatory name. The term "holiday party" was enacted in order to make native americans, asians, and muslims(27a) all feel equally un-american.
(27a) When Ramadan is not in December.
  1. The "holiday party", in order to be done properly, requires a great deal of ritual drinking and debauchery. "Ad'loyada" - one must drink and continue drinking up to(28) the point he cannot tell the difference between his fat dumpy wife and his gorgeous 22 year-old blond secretary.(29)
(28) In this case, "up to" means "ad v'lo ad b'clal" - "up to but not including" the point when he cannot tell the difference. Once one has reached this point he is excused from further drinking. See next note for more details.
(29) The example above presumes that he is a male, and his secretary is a female. However, if his secretary is male, and he has reached the point where he cannot tell the difference between his fat dumpy wife and his handsome 22 year-old blond male secretary, then he is forbidden to drink any more alcohol until Purim.
  1. All banks and offices must close at noon(30) on the 24th of december so that everyone may be able to get home in time to take care of the last minute preparations.
(30) Retail establishments remain open until 4 PM on Erev Xmas, and Toys 'R' Us until midnight. Denny's never closes.


  1. After tzeis hakochavim, the family gathers together for the erev xmas meal. There are various opinions as to what is to be eaten at this meal. Only fish is to be eaten at the erev xmas meal.(31) Italians have the minhag of eating 12 fishes(32) at this meal corresponding to the 12 days of xmas.
(31) When Erev Xmas is on Friday, and the seudah coincides with the first Shabbos meal, only gefilte fish may be used.
(32) Even on Shabbos, one can easily reach 12 different kinds of gefilte fish: Rabbi Yosi HaGlili said, How can we show that four different fishes can make twelve different dishes? Because we ate four different fishes in Egypt, (whitefish, pike, carp, and whitefish-pike,) but we are now able to buy them three different ways. We can buy them ready-to-eat in jars, frozen in loaves, or ground raw at the fish store. Now, it follows that if there were four different species, then there are 12 different gefilte fishes.
Rabbi Eliezer said, How can we show that each of the twelve fishes is actually eight dishes? Because they can be made with or without salt, with or without sugar, and with or without matzo meal, and there are eight combinations of those three options. Thus, if there are twelve fishes that can be prepared eight ways, then there are a total of 96 dishes!
Rabbi Akiva said, How can we show that each of the twelve fishes is actually sixteen dishes? Because each of Rabbi Eliezer's eight recipes can be made either cooked or baked. Thus, if there are twelve fishes that can be prepared sixteen ways, then there are a total of 192 dishes!
  1. Once the meal is complete, the family gathers in the room with the tree where they sing zemiros and drink eggnog.(33) At midnight the family heads to shul for tikkun chatzos. Some opinions say that tikkun chatzos can be said as early as 8:00 pm,(34) but it is good to be stringent on oneself.
(33) Eggnog being a milchig drink, some hold that this is the real reason for eating fish instead of meat.
(34) So that the children will be awake.


  1. For many years, the existence of Santa Claus was a subject of intense machlokes in the adult community. In 1897, a team of investigative reporters was commissioned by one Virginia O'Hanlon to resolve the question. Their findings, concluded "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus."(35) This was reaffirmed several decades later in a court case brought in New York county supreme court.(36)
(35) New York Sun, September 21, 1897
(36) Testimony from the United States Post Office proved to be crucial in deciding this case, as documented in Miracle on 34th Street, 1947.
  1. It is absolutely forbidden to light any kind of fire in the fireplace on this evening.(37) Those who want to roast chestnuts on an open fire should use a barbecue.
(37) DUH! (But see also below, note 39)
  1. To demonstrate our faith(38) in Santa, each year we leave him a plate of donuts or cookies on a table near the tree, with a glass of milk to drink. Soon after this practice began, children began to question why the milk was still on the table the following morning, so their parents adopted the minhag of drinking the milk after the children went to bed. However, just three years ago,(39) while delivering his gifts, Santa accidentally revealed to a young girl that he suffered from lactose intolerance, and that this is why the milk had been left undrunk all those years. The following year, she left him a glass of pareve soybean "milk", and this practice has spread far and wide since then. (In communities which accept the use of government supervised milk in lieu of rabbinic cholov yisroel, lactaid milk is used instead.)
(38) "I believe with complete faith that he knows if you've been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake." Ani Maamin #11, daily siddur.
(39) The Santa Clause, by Tim Allen, produced by Walter Disney, 1994. This film also showed Santa's new fire-resistant suit which was developed just that year. Nevertheless, the principle is that a protective measure is not abandoned even if the reason no longer exists, and so the ban on lighting fireplace fires remains in full force.


  1. One is to rise early on the morning of the 25th in order to open the presents. there is a seudas mitzvah which must be completed before shkia.
  2. Meat and wine must be served at this meal. Lots are drawn to choose a designated driver who may not have any wine.
  3. The meat may only be roasted. One may not eat any boiled or broiled meat at this meal.
  4. After the meal, many have the custom to retire to the family room to watch sports on T.V.
  5. Kiddush is not recited on xmas, but one should definitely have some holly.


  1. There are many opinions regarding when the XMas season is over.(40) Bais Hillel holds that XMas is over when the last item in the after XMas sale has been sold. Bais Shammai is strict and holds that XMas is over immediately at the conclusion of the football game.
(40) Many are confused by the term "twelve days of Xmas", implying that the Xmas continues until and including January 5. Today, this view is accepted only by the Eastern Orthodox, who hold that December 26 through January 5 constitute Chol Hamoed Xmas. This view is opposed by both the Modern Orthodox and the Ultra Orthodox (and even the Non Orthodox) who hold that Xmas is only one day long, and any context which seems otherwise actually refers to the Xmas season.
  1. Walled cites continue XMas until the end of the winning team's ticker-tape parade. A recent acharon, Rabbi Edward, celebrated XMas in August; for this he became known as "crazy eddie".


This is the fruitcake of our affliction, which our ancestors baked 400 years ago. All who are in need, come and celebrate Xmas with us. All who are hungry, come and partake of this 400-year-old fruitcake, as it is written, "Let them eat cake!" This year we watch football in the living room, next year may the Super Bowl come to our city!

Some have the minhag to place the gift-wrapped presents under the tree so that they will pique the curiosity of the children so that they will ask the four essential questions:

We were slaves to our employers, working seven days a week with no benefits, and then the unions were organized, and decreed a five-day workweek and many holidays in the end of the year. Now if the unions had not gotten their act together, then we, and our sons, and even our grandsons, would still have to work on Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Xmas, and New Years. But our daughters and granddaughters still await their salvation.


There are four types of children who ask questions on Xmas: the wise one, the bad one, the simple one, and the one who does not know to ask.

What does the wise one ask? I don't know; I couldn't understand him either. Him you must send to a school for gifted children.

What does the bad one ask? He says, "What is this holiday to you?" Because he excludes himself from the community, you must exclude him from your table, and he will go back to his employer and get paid double-time and a half for working on Xmas day.

What does the simple one ask? He simply asks, "What is this?" You will say to him, "This is dinner."

As for the one who does not know to ask, you must go to his room, wake him up and say, "Next year, remember to come to the table!"


If we would have a beautiful tree, but not have stockings hanging from the fireplace, it would have been enough.
If we would have stockings hanging from the fireplace, but not get today off from work, it would have been enough.
If we would get today off from work, and not get off on Erev Xmas as well, it would have been enough.
If we would get off on Erev Xmas as well, but not get presents, it would have been enough.
If we would get presents, but not a delicious dinner, it would have been enough.
If we would have a delicious dinner and no dessert, it would have been enough.
If we would have dessert, but not watch the football game, it would have been enough.
If we would watch the football game, but not see our team win, it would have been enough.
If we would see our team win, and have a hangover the next morning, it would have been enough.


(Pick up the eggnog and say:) But we do have a beautiful tree, and we have stockings hanging from the fireplace, and we got today off from work, and we got off on Erev Xmas as well, and we got presents, a delicious dinner, and dessert, and we watched the football game, and saw our team win, and so we will now toast our team, and pray that we do not get a hangover tomorrow morning: "Yay team!"


Next year is Purim!


Who knows one?
I know one!
One is a partridge in a pear tree.

Who knows two?
I know two!
Two are the turtledoves, and
One is a partridge in a pear tree.

Who knows three?
I know three!
Three are the french hens!
Two are the turtledoves, and
One is a partridge in a pear tree.

Who knows four? I know four! Four are the calling birds! ...
Who knows five? I know five! Five are the gold rings! ...
Who knows six? I know six! Six are the geese a-laying! ...
Who knows seven? I know seven! Seven are the swans a-swimming! ...
Who knows eight? I know eight! Eight are the maids a-milking! ...
Who knows nine? I know nine! Nine are the drummers drumming! ...
Who knows ten? I know ten! Ten are the pipers piping! ...
Who knows eleven! I know eleven! Eleven are the ladies dancing! ...

Who knows twelve?
I know twelve!
Twelve are the lords a-leaping!
Eleven are the ladies dancing
Ten are the pipers piping
Nine are the drummers drumming
Eight are the maids a-milking
Seven are the swans a-swimming
Six are the geese a-laying
Five are the gold rings
Four are the calling birds
Three are the french hens
Two are the turtle doves and
One is a partridge in a pear tree.

One little reindeer, one little reindeer,
My father bought for two zuzim.
One little reindeer, one little reindeer.

Then came a cat and ate the reindeer
My father bought for two zuzim.
One little reindeer, one little reindeer.

Then came a dog and bit the cat,
That ate the reindeer,
My father bought for two zuzim.
One little reindeer, one little reindeer.

Then came a stick and beat the dog,
That bit the cat that ate the reindeer
My father bought for two zuzim.
One little reindeer, one little reindeer.

Then came a fire and burned the stick, ...
Then came the water and quenched the fire, ...
Then came an ox and drank the water, ...
Then came a shochet and slaughtered the ox, ...
Then came the angel of death and killed the shochet, ...

Then came the Blessed Holy One and slew the angel of death,
That killed the shochet that slaughtered the ox
That drank the water that quenched the fire
That burned the stick that beat the dog
That bit the cat that ate the reindeer
My father bought for two zuzim.
One little reindeer, one little reindeer.