Davy and Debby Hoffman were furious. It was Thanksgiving and at the homes of all of their friends tiny elves were magically appearing on random shelves. Checking their own shelves, though, all they found were books and shit. They ran straight to their father Neal. "Why don't we have any elves sitting on shelves at our house?" they asked.
"'The Elf on the Shelf' is a Christian tradition," said Neal, "and we're Jewish. We don't believe in elves because we don't believe in Christmas because we don't believe in Jesus Christ."
"Oh," replied Davy and Debby. "That absolutely sucks."
Every day Davy and Debby whined a little more. They'd visit another friend's home and see a cute little elf on a book-free shelf, and then they'd go home and scream. "BUY US A GODDAMNED ELF ON THE SHELF!" they screamed in unison. "BUY US A GODDAMNED ELF!"
The last straw came when somebody told Davy and Debby that these little stuffed elves flew to the North Pole at night and talked to Santa about them. "We don't wanna be Jewish," they yelled at their father. "We don't want fuckin' books on our shelves. We want one of Santa's assistants to sit there and watch us!"
Their father shook his head. How could these children see that aside from being outside of their heritage this elf was basically a felt nannycam? Then one day a lightbulb blinked on above his head. "Why," he thought, "I'll make a Jewish version of that infernal toy! Who wouldn't love a little Jewish man hanging around their house keeping tabs on them?" Neal, a former toy company executive, stitched up a crude figure and kept his fingers crossed. Others might have called it a creepy copy of an semi-interesting toy but he dubbed it "The Mensch on the Bench."
"The Mensch on the Bench is even more fun than the Elf on the Shelf," Neal told Davy and Debby, "because he's a nice Jewish man who watches you. If you do good, he's happy. And if you do evil, he's unhappy."
"Every night the Elf on the Shelf flies to the North Pole," said Davy, "to tell Santa if we've been naughty or nice. Where does the Mensch on the Bench go?"
Hoffman wracked his brain. "The senior center," he finally said. "He tells everybody's grandparents about you."
"Oh, okay," said the kids. And a Chanukah tradition was born.
Marcus and Augusta Agrippa were furious. It was December 17, the first day of Saturnalia, and all of their friends were hanging ornaments on trees, stuffing themselves with food, getting drunk and screwing and exchanging presents afterward. They went home and complained to their father Flavius. "Why can't we overeat and get presents?" they asked.
"Only the pagans do that," said Flavius, "and we're Christians. We don't celebrate Saturnalia because we don't believe Saturn is the god of the harvest because we believe in one true God."
"Oh," replied the Marcus and Augusta. "That absolutely sucks."
Every day Marcus and Augusta whined a little more. They'd look outside and see drunk people urinating in the streets before going home and giving each other The Clapper. At their house, meanwhile, it was all wrestling lessons and chiseling Latin words into stone.
Finally they threw a hissy fit at the Caesar's Palace Mall when they saw pagan children drinking Jack and Coke out of little sippy cups. "We don't wanna be Christian," Marcus and Augusta yelled at their father. "We don't have any fun. We don't have human sacrifices. We don't get to smash shit up. AND WHAT ABOUT OVEREATING AND GETTING PRESENTS?"
After one last, futile attempt to explain to his kids that only an idiot would celebrate the growth of corn, Flavius got a brilliant idea. "Why," he thought, "I'll make a Christian version of that infernal holiday! Who wouldn't love a religious celebration where you stuff yourself and then get cool shit?" Flavius decorated a tree, wrapped gifts and made green bean casserole, then fashioned a diorama of baby Jesus in a manger and kept his fingers crossed. He knew it was lame but he had high hopes. Others might have called it a creepy copy of a semi-interesting celebration but he dubbed it "Christmas."
"Christmas is even more fun than Saturnalia," he told his kids as they tore at their presents, "because instead of celebrating some stupid harvest, you're commemorating a really nice guy. See, Jesus died because he loved you, then he came back to life and now he and his father watch you all the time. If you do good, he's happy. And if you do evil, he's unhappy."
"Oh, okay," said the kids in unison, and that was the year Christmas was born.