If You Don't Celebrate Christmas ....

Even though I'm Jewish, when I was a kid my family double-dipped. We had a miniature plastic tree hidden in a corner with blue and red balls and a few presents below.
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Some of us don't celebrate Christmas.

It isn't easy for us, ignoring the sidewalk Santas and never getting caroled and not decorating trees with ornaments we collect over the years, and not sending out Christmas cards, and not singing the Jesus part of Silent Night.

I like eggnog, I like stockings hung by the chimney, even carelessly. I find pfeffernuesse beguiling. And kissing under mistletoe is about the only action I can find right now.

Even though I'm Jewish, when I was a kid my family double-dipped. We had a miniature plastic tree hidden in a corner with blue and red balls and a few presents below. We also celebrated Chanukah, which is a minor Jewish holiday made into a big deal with eight days of presents to make Jewish children feel better.

But potato latkes are not the same as gingerbread houses. It was fake Christmas.

Are you, or someone you know having to deal with this, too? You may be separated from loved ones, or Jewish or Buddhist or a Kwanzaa celebrator. Or maybe you're having a tough time and taking a break from the whole thing. Or like me you're on your own (not necessarily bad!) or you're an atheist or a secular progressive (take that Bill O'Reilly) or just not partaking for whatever reason.

If so, I offer some ideas that work for me to tide you over the holidays in relative comfort and joy.

Go where people don't celebrate. The best place is one that doesn't much bother with Christmas and doesn't even remind you of it. Best is South Florida, or southern California, filled with Jewish folks, palm trees and beaches. This is easier to deal with than being around firs, snowfields and steepled villages. You can actually forget about the season in 85 degree heat. If you don't have a relative or friend living in a hot spot, try friends of friends. People in sub-tropical climes are used to this in wintertime.

The Caribbean is another excellent fake Christmas spot. Or a ski resort. But you'll probably have to pay for these. Sure you don't know someone in Florida?

I used to go down to Florida to visit my folks every Christmas vacation. Now that I live there in the winter, I'm the one getting visitors. And as long as it isn't more than a week, and as long as I know the people's names, I usually enjoy it.

Plane tickets are especially inexpensive late on Christmas morning, and if you get a ticket for day before Christmas and carry-on you might get bumped with a free ticket, which for some might be considered a Christmas present (but not for you because remember, you're not celebrating). That's happened to me and because I didn't check baggage I could take advantage of the opportunity. I don't care if I'm flying on Christmas eve or Christmas.

Don't want to go away?

Deny the whole thing. I often do this. I turn off the TV and radio. I put non-Christmas songs in my ear. I read a good, long book about summer things. I think about everybody else gaining weight with Yule logs and eggnog and cookies. I eat salad and become the only person in the United States to lose weight over the holiday.

Eat at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas eve or Christmas. You'll find it chock-a-block with other non-celebrators. And it's cheaper than going to China (which also is a fine option if you have the bucks and time).

Get adopted by someone who celebrates Christmas. This may be the best solution, offering much of the fun with none of the work, and minimum guilt. It's the hosts' Christmas, not yours. You're just observing the Mass. You're just sharing the turkey and plum pudding.

Just be sure to bring your hosts really good Christmas presents -- no regifting. You want to be invited back every Christmas, as a tradition. Then it will be almost-real Christmas.

Virginia R. was my Christmas host when I was a young girl. I got to sleep over and share in her excitement on Christmas morning. Later it was a neighbor who lived in the home with Tudor trim and a huge tree with antique decorations.

Volunteer. You can tell a fellow worker you'll take over their work. Good karma, and maybe extra pay.

This is a sad season for many, maybe you too. Check out serving meals or collecting toys or helping others in some way over this holiday and into the New Year. Helping makes the Christmas spirit become real (even if Christmas isn't your holiday).