Lez Miserable: If Jews can learn to love Christmas, then so can gays

Christmas is the one time of year that straight, socially conservative men unconsciously gay it up for a whole month.

Somewhere in Middle England, a middle-aged dad sits in the middle of a DFS sofa. He’s in the middle of a Mail on Sunday article about Middle European immigrants. Every time he reads the word “taxpayer”, he clenches his buttocks. He’s wearing a red-and-green knitted sweater with the words “ho”, “ho” and “ho” jauntily spelled out across the front. He’s just helped decorate the tree, so tinsel hangs from his shoulders and catches the light that shines from the glowing nose of his novelty Rudolph mug. Mindlessly, he hums along to “Santa Baby” on the radio.

Welcome to Christmas, the only time of year in which probable homophobes have absolutely no idea how gay they’re being. It’s the all-singing, all-dancing festival that is so deep in the closet, it’s found next year’s Christmas presents. The Season is in so much denial about its sexuality that Hallmark recently started selling a Christmas decoration on which the word “gay” had been changed to “fun” in the “Deck the Halls” lyric, as in “Don we now our [expletive deleted] apparel”.

As a young, politically aware lesbian, I find there’s a lot of pressure to shun all forms of establishment-approved fun. This includes weddings, stuff where the Queen waves and anything involving Stephen Fry. Christmas falls smack into the “must avoid” list like a fat, dead turkey. But, as with any other ludicrously camp celebration, I think Christmas should be taken for what it is: a gigantic gay piss-up.

The annual and systematic Noel Edmondsification of an entire nation is absurdity at its finest. Watching straight, socially conservative men unconsciously gay it up for a whole month never stops being funny. That we do the same thing every bloody year is one of those “full circle” jokes that goes from hilarious, to funny, to mildly amusing, to irritating, and back to hilarious again. Mulled wine is like Merlot’s “unmarried” uncle, Santa wears fur and Christmas trees are essentially the drag queens of the arboreal world.

Every year, at least one person asks me why my Jewish family celebrates Christmas. Well, for a start, my (secular) parents never wanted my siblings and me to miss out. They also have a fairly decent sense of irony. I grew up thinking that chopped liver was a traditional Yuletide delicacy and that Christmas trees were called “Hanukkah bushes”. I have fond memories of my parents coming in from the cold, loaded with shopping bags, my dad looking shaken and saying, “The goyim are going mad out there.”

If Jews can learn to love Christmas, then so can gays. And just as so many Jews Jewify Christmas, the LGBT community should queer it. Let’s coax Christmas out of the closet. Let’s take the coy “wink, wink” away from “don we now our gay apparel”. People, all people, should be looking at that and saying, “Well, of course we’re donning our homosexual apparel. It’s Christmas.” Then they should have a tipsy, same-sex kiss under the mistletoe and wait for Father Christmas to come down their chimney with a sack full of Ryan Gosling topless calendars, and something ethical for the lesbians.


Recently-made tinsel in Cwmbran, Wales. Photo: Getty.

Eleanor Margolis is a freelance journalist.

This article appears in the 19 December 2013 issue of the New Statesman, Christmas Triple Issue