While some people are lamenting a decline of Jewish literacy and sophistication (a post on that is soon to follow; I’ve been doing quite some reading on that over the past few weeks) and are conveniently blaming it on intermarriage, I’d like to lament the rise of the kitsch monster.
What is the kitsch monster? The kitsch monster is some kind of creature with superpowers that makes Jews do extraordinary things. Nobody has ever quite seen the kitsch monster, but if you look at what’s going on at this time of the year, you’ll easily see there’s enough evidence to base the belief in a kitsch monster on. The things the kitsch monster makes you do include buying overpriced kitsch in blue and white with star patterns and making Jewself believe you’ve acquired a piece of art and skilled craftmanship (the price might well suggest such), going out for Chinese food on Xmas Eve just to conflate religious identity with stereotypical behaviour, eat gross amounts of fried carbs with spiritual complacency, nodding in approval at cheesy holiday music, lousy holiday jokes & anecdotes and online videos, placing emphasis on a minor Jewish holiday (Wasn’t Shavuot the cheesecake day?) and one’s religious authenticity but at large celebrating an adaption of non-Jewish customs to that minor Jewish holiday while resenting the notion of an initially non-Christian winter solstice festival.
Do not feed the kitsch monster! Do not mate with it! Once you enter concubinage with the kitsch monster, it is going to get a rough grip on your left hemisphere!
Just as vampires presumably can be kept in check with a handful of salt thrown at them as their obsession with counting makes them start counting the salt grains, the kitsch monster can be fought back with a handful of holiday trivia concerning the origins of customs.
In a nutshell:
Jewish: story of the Maccabees, oil flasks;
Goyish (as in Christian) religious: candles, sufganiyot, gelt (real money or chocolate coins), certain gifts;
Goyish secular: latkes, spinning top-games, all other gifts;
Pagan: solstice festivals, decorations of perennial greenery, star-shaped amulets.
The kitsch monster is not just seasonal. Its impact has been reported around other holidays as well, but winter seems to be its peak season.
What would the Maccabees do?