A Jewish Christmas

From The RP’s sister, Jennifer Miller, on Quora:

Miller Brothers



The following article — torn, yellowed, matted, and framed — has hung on my wall my whole life. I think it gives a pretty good sense of who the Millers are supposed to be, and it launched my fascination with the writer, J. Soule Smith.

Published in 1899, it is an incredible piece of satire triggered by the Christmas Eve vandalism of my family’s store (Miller Brothers, at the lower left of the photo) in Lexington, Kentucky.  The Millers had dared to violate Blue Laws by opening the doors to local children when Christmas fell on a Sunday.  My guess is that the Starbucks now in that location will be open on Christmas Sunday 2011.

By J. Soule Smith
The Gatling Gun, 1899

The accursed and despised Jew continues to get in his work. Like Shylock, he not only wants his pound of flesh but insists on taking the trimmings of blood, etc., along with it. He not only supplants his Christian neighbor in business, but he has been trying to vie with him in patriotism, and at last has begun to rob him of his Christmas. We ought to do something with the unregenerate Jew. In England they convert him at a guinea a head, and a thrifty Polish or Russian Jew can make a fair start in business by backsliding every time he gets strapped and being converted some more. Now and then they convert one in this country, and send him around to tell the country churches how they could convert the whole remnant of Israel if they would only put up enough money. So soon as they put up enough money, he invests it in a clothing store and fills the windows with cheap goods worth $2.00, but labeled “Marked down from $8.00 to $6.99.” Then the suckers come and buy, and the smart Jew laughs at the credulous Christian who converted him.

But some of the unregenerate, and unconverted, Jews persist in practicing Christian virtues while stubbornly adhering to the Jewish faith. They insist on living decently, practicing charity, and loving the human race – well knowing that these things are the peculiar prerogatives of Christians. They ought to be ashamed of themselves for acting so, but they are not. They seem to forget that by all our laws of fiction and philosophy, the Jew ought to be grasping and avaricious and the evil demon of his fellow-men. And one Jew, to my knowledge, got up a regular Santa Claus Christmas. It happened here in Lexington, in the heart of the Blue Grass region, where, according to the Northern idea, we kill “niggers” for breakfast and have cold roast pickaninny for supper; yet nobody killed the Jew. He is still alive, and selling ready-made clothing at the old stand.

Christmas of 1898 came on Sunday, as we all know. That is, it did in the United States, though in England some of the clergy decided it was not Sunday at all, since the prayer-book gave no form of worship for such a day; and of course it would be wrong to worship God except according to the prayer-book. But it was Sunday here – worse than a Puritanical Sabbath. The women had all the saloons closed, and toothless virgins stood on the street corners smelling the breath of every passing male. It had been decreed in England that the day was Christmas – a season of rejoicing – not the Sabbath, on which everybody had to be uncomfortable and make everybody else feel the same way. But the male and female old women, here, decided that nobody on earth should have any fun on that day if they could help it. But this unsalivated Jew had all the fun he wanted, and nobody dared stop him. He celebrated Christmas with a real Santa Claus.

That Jew sent out emissaries through the town for a month before, and sought for and found all the poor children – white, black and speckled – who had no parents or friends able or willing to give them Christmas presents. He docketed them by serial and sexual numbers, so that when entered on the books he knew the age, sex, and previous condition of servitude of each one. The Jew always has method in his madness. Then he gave each one of them a card of invitation to his store on Christmas day, and, with malice aforethought, and that diabolical cunning which is characteristic of the Jew, he purchased a present suitable for each child. He had no charitable organization to assist him, so far as I know, except a soft-eyed, sweet-voiced, large-hearted little Jewess – his sister – who, not so very long ago, perpetuated the memory of a dead brother by furnishing a room for poor patients in a Christian hospital. Maybe it would have been more Christian-like for her to have erected a marble mausoleum, but she did not see it in that light.

So this Jew and his sweet-hearted little sister perfected their plot against the Christian children. If they had tried such a game in Spain, three hundred years ago, they would both have been burned at the stake and their goods confiscated. It was well known in those days that Jews at Christian children for breakfast, and picked their bones over, cold, for supper. There was reason to suspect a similar intent in this case, for the children were required to be washed clean before they came. But even then they were not entirely palatable, for the Jew and his sister failed and refused to eat any of them, white or black.

But this Jew and his honey-hearted little sister had their fun all the same, and broke the Christian Sabbath into fragments, not knowing that one Jesus, a Jew, would have done just as they did had He been situated just as they were. He had spoken a parable – something about going into the highways and the by-ways for guests to a supper that was spread – but these unregenerate Jews knew nothing of that. I believe that Jesus is (not was) the Christ, the Son of the living God, and Himself living, to-day, in the hearts of those who worship the living God. I believe with the Brahmin, in the words of Krishna: “Of all Yogas, I respect him as the most devout who hath faith in me and who serveth me with a soul possessed of my spirit.” But this is not orthodox Christian doctrine as taught in the churches and the Temperance Unions and Young Men’s Christian Associations. And, therefore, these ignorant Jews conceived the notion that it was well to make people happy on Christmas day. Poor, foolish Jews! did they not know that the “Christian Sabbath” is a day of groaning and lamentation, and that Jesus Himself would be put in the workhouse for vagrancy if He applied for a Christmas gift at the door of a coal-oil millionaire’s house? Christ, on Euclid avenue, would be collared by the police before He had worked a miracle.

All Saturday night the good Christians of this town bombarded the front of this wicked Jew’s store with Roman candles and Chinese fire-crackers and sky-rockets and dynamite bombs, and other Christian devices for converting unregenerate Jews who obstinately refuse to become converted at a guinea apiece. Most of the Christians were drunk, but the obstinate Jew remained sober, and, finding he could transact no business, went home and went to bed. I suppose he dreamed of eating Christian babies barbecued, or broiled on toast like quail. He never told me his dream, because I did not ask him; but from what I know of Jews I suppose they eat Christian babies – in their sleep. I know they don’t eat them while awake.

Christmas was a bright and breezy Sunday – the atmosphere was clear and could bite without the assistance of a dentist. I went down to this Jew’s store to see how his iniquitous scheme would work out. The scene was unique. There were some Christian bums, left over from the night before, up and down the street, trying to batter their way into the side doors of saloons to get a bracer. Not a drop could they get, though some of them fell by the wayside. They were melancholy and unhappy, and the virtuous virgins and mincing children who passed them on the way to Sunday school drew aside from them in scorn and looked as stolidly miserable as the bums did. They went to church and called themselves “miserable sinners,” and I think they hit this combination about right.

This Jew was a sinner, but I don’t think he was miserable. He was busy in the back part of his store breaking the “Christian Sabbath” that these church people talk about, just like that other Jew, Jesus, broke the Jewish Sabbath – by doing good. In front of the store were two or three hundred children, white, black, yellow and albino – some too little to come by themselves – waiting for Santa Claus to come. At the appointed hour Santa Claus came in his yellow wagon – there was no snow, so he kept his sleigh in Lapland – and forced his way into the store through the excited crowd of youngsters. In the back part of the building he ascended his throne and waited for the little folks to come. A few policemen at the front door, some of them Irish – and every good Protestant knows that an Irish policeman is nearly as bad as a charitable Jew – admitted these little ones, a few at a time, so that there should be no crush and no confusion. These wicked policemen actually smiled and looked happy when they gave those Christian children into the clutches of the ravenous Jew. They were very ungodly police, else so ignorant that they did not know how sinful it was to be happy on the “Christian Sabbath.”

And those poor heathen children – niggers, negroes, mulattoes and white – were happy. Each one presented a card, and Santa gave a present – numbered as the card was. Then the child passed out the side door, with joy in its heart and the present in its arms. Most of them hurried home to tell of their good luck. Some stopped to peep into the bundle. The wicked Jew stood by Santa Claus, and actually gloated over the happiness of these poor creatures, as if a Jew had any right to share the joy of Christian children. His little sister shrunk back into an obscure corner behind the railing of the cashier’s desk and watched the procession of God’s poor, as it passed by, through what looked to me like tears of joy, filming her soft eyes so that their long silken lashes could not hide the gleam. What passed in that little lady’s soul I do not know; there are gray threads in her hair, but never a fibre in the warp and woof of her life that is not sweet and pure and gentle and lovable. For more than twenty years I have known her, and her heart is virgin and her hand is free. No man has ever touched the sanctity of her inner life. But I suspect that even she dared to be happy on this Christmas day while the truly good people were calling themselves “miserable sinners” at church. Alas! so easily corrupted am I, and so seductive the wiles of these wicked Jews, that I am afraid that I, too, was happy when I saw them doing Christ’s work and shaming the churches with their JEWISH CHRISTMAS.


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