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About the author:
Catherine Beck loves happy endings, snarky comments, and baking pie. A long time resident of Jersey City, she can’t think of anywhere she’d rather be for the holidays than New York, and in her household, December requires both gingerbread and latkes. Leah’s First Christmas is her first romance novella, but you can find more of her writing at www.caitlinrozakis.com.
What inspired you to write your book?
I was irritated at holiday romances where the Jewish character learns the true meaning of Christmas. I wanted for once for the true meaning of Christmas to be Chinese food with your family on Long Island. But I was also writing while dreadfully homesick for non-pandemic New York. So you'll find snark, love, and food descriptions.
Here is a short sample from the book:
He kissed her gently and then pulled away. “You want to come out to my place to swap gifts next weekend? My roommates are leaving town.”
“Oh, ah. I’d like to, but I can’t. I have to go out to Long Island for an extended family thing.”
“Oh, does your family do a big Christmas thing with all the relatives?”
“…sort of.” It was a big thing, with all the relatives, all right. There was just one problem. It wasn’t Christmas. It was Chanukah.
She knew this was the point where she was supposed to tell him. But she’d been down this road before. There were two ways it could go. Well, four, if you counted 3) the straight-up proselytizing route and 4) the mouth-foaming rant about how the Jews secretly controlled the world route. But she knew him well enough to feel pretty sure he wouldn’t pick those routes, or she wouldn’t have been dating him in the first place.
But no, the well-meaning and not-obnoxious-but-still-totally-obnoxious options were these. 1) He could be baffled. Why would a nice Jewish girl like Christmas? Shouldn’t she be draping menorah-covered silver garland over things, or at very most, putting up a Chanukah bush? (There was an extra judge-y option 1a that involved accusing her of being a self-hating Jew and a traitor to her people. That one was extra fun.) Or there was option 2) Operation Introduce-the-Poor-Little-Jewish-Girl-to-Christmas.
The folks who chose option 2 were almost the worst. Well, not the actual worst, because they weren’t straight up racist. But the most annoying. Because they partially got it. Chanukah was not a substitute for Christmas. Chanukah was a minor holiday at best, that got over-inflated to be a cultural counterweight so people could feel inclusive and so seven-year-olds didn’t feel left out. Christmas was its own thing, and it was awesome. Leah loved everything about Christmas except the Christ part, and she could be respectful of that bit without actually having the slightest interest in converting. And the Operation-Poor-Jewish-Girl folks got that. They didn’t try to make her become Christian. They themselves thought the most appealing parts of the holiday were the Hallmark movies and mint hot chocolate and day-long cookie baking sessions. And lights and presents and eggnog. They weren’t trying to convert her. They were just condescending as hell.
Leah didn’t need to be introduced to Christmas. She was born in the United States; she grew up breathing in aerosolized Christmas in the atmosphere with everyone else in the goddamn country. She didn’t need someone to sit her down and hold her hand and explain to her the significance of the stocking, she’d seen Rankin Bass specials on AMC. She didn’t want her Very First Ornament; she didn’t have a tree to put it on. She understood the concept of an ugly sweater contest. She’d had a series of very well-meaning friends over the years squeal at the idea of introducing her to Christmas and then run roughshod over her. She never again wanted to have someone hand her a candy cane and have the room stop and stare at her opening it and then excitedly ask about her feelings on peppermint as if she were from Mars and had never before encountered the concept.
What she really wanted was to just…drink in the Christmas experience, without it being a thing. “Why, yes, my fellow Christmas-celebrators, I too enjoy the eating of the gingerbread and the listening to the Bing Crosby,” she would say. Well, not really, because the whole point was to not have someone treat her like an anthropological expedition.
And she really didn’t want to have this conversation now, when her boyfriend’s little sister—whom she’d never met—would show up at any moment.
“My family’s not…really into Christmas,” she said. It wasn’t a lie. It just…wasn’t the whole truth.