Nittel Nacht: A Jewish Christmas Tradition
Why would Jews have Christmas traditions? As Aaron Eby explains in this article published by First Fruits of Zion, the tradition of Nittel Nacht originated in Eastern Europe in response to the anti-Semitic acts of Christians frequently committed on Christmas Eve. It would seem that the version of the story of Jesus which they had heard in Christmas Eve services emphasized the role of Jews in rejecting Jesus and causing his execution. Perhaps that would be sufficient motivation for a Bohemian peasant with nothing better to do to find a Jewish shop and throw a brick through the window, or maybe even throw that brick through the head of an unsuspecting Jewish pedestrian. With such a testimony by the self-identified followers of Jesus Christ, is it any wonder that Jews have had little motivation to learn about the very real, and very Jewish, Jesus?
Believe it or not, there really are customs among Chasidim for Christmas Eve.
(originally published on First Fruits of Zion, December 24, 2015)
Given that Christmas Eve was a favorite time for raids, pogroms, and marauding, certain practices developed in Jewish communities as a result. Some of them were pragmatic, a matter of survival; others were symbolic, to show disdain for the enemies of the Jewish people. May we never see those dark times again.