I was raised Jewish. For those of you unfamiliar with the particulars, there are many sects of Judaism -- Orthodox (funny hats), Conservative (smaller, less funny hats) and Reform (occasional small hats, but at least they get to sing about it). But I generally identify as a Deli Jew (napkin bibs in lieu of hats). My faith tends to begin and end at a bowl of matzo ball soup.
But while I was raised Jewish, my wife was not -- though she's often mistaken for a Jew, mostly due to her Costco membership and her ability to return anything to Bed Bath and Beyond for cash, including things she didn't even buy there. If she was a Jew, and Jews had saints, she'd be etched up on a stained glass window somewhere.
Because my wife and I are interfaith, the holidays used to be a confusing time for us. She grew up with Christmas and I did not, so all of her warm and familiar holiday traditions were new and foreign to me. I met each new Christmas experience with total confusion and befuddlement. There are just too many unanswered questions. Why is it exciting to drive around and look at lights three weeks before Christmas, but if they're still up more than a week after, it's lazy and your neighbors hate you? Christmas -- the most standard Western holiday -- was so strange and alien to me that my wife began to refer to me as "Starman."
My wife loves Christmas -- the lights, the songs, the smells -- and has all the warm childhood memories that go along with it. So to make the holidays something I could love too, she blended it with some of my most positive childhood associations and formed the new holiday of Trekmas.
Trek or Schlep?
While I was raised Jewish, I was born Trekkie. I don't know how. My parents weren't Trekkies, nor were any of my friends. I have no idea how "Trek" entered my life, it's just always been there. I was such a Trekkie that "Star Trek" was the theme of my bar mitzvah. I was such a Trekkie that I actually identified as a Trekker, because of an old "MAD Magazine" cartoon that described Trekkies as "fans of a TV show about the 23rd century" and Trekkers as "delusional crazies who want to live in the 23rd century."
What appealed most to me wasn't the gadgets, though the blinking lights were always pretty. It wasn't even the green-skinned alien girls, who were even prettier. It was Roddenberry's secular humanist utopia. A future where mankind evolved out of its petty differences over race and religion to reach the stars? That's always been my kind of future.
Perhaps it was the early influence of Roddenberry Humanism that led me to find the promised land in a pastrami sandwich. But my clearest memories of those mind-numbing hours of Hebrew School were mostly trying to disprove what I saw as primitive superstition, like a middle-school Starfleet captain, only with no respect for the Prime Directive ... so exactly like a Starfleet captain. In hindsight, it was just a matter of time until I tossed "Star Trek" and religious holidays into a transporter together to see what would come out.
Trekmas: The Final Frontier
Trekmas comes down to fusing my wife's most beloved parts of Christmas with Deli Jew food and my favorite bits of "Star Trek" and creating something new, with all the positive childhood memories we both cherish.
On Trekmas Eve, my wife cooks our traditional Trekmas brisket and latkes while Mr. Spock beams down presents for all the logical boys and girls. On Trekmas morning, we rush downstairs in Trek pajamas. We marathon "Star Trek" while we unwrap presents beneath the tree (with Mr. Spock tree topper). Occasionally, we'll read a classic Trekmas story, like "A Very Klingon Khristmas."
It's easy to find a dozen or so Trekmas-appropriate TV episodes to celebrate the holiday. Data's holodeck take on Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" in "The Next Generation's" "Devil's Due" comes to mind, and the Christmas party from TOS's "Dagger of the Mind" was one of Captain Kirk's more acceptable moments of workplace sexual harassment. But finding the perfect "Star Trek" film to complement Trekmas takes a little more work.
I'll take any excuse to rewatch "Wrath of Khan," and Spock's death parallels the darkest and coldest time of year nicely. But it's a bit of a Trekmas morning bummer. "The Search For Spock's" rebirth themes make it more of an Easter Trek, and we all know it's best to avoid the odd-numbered films as much as possible. Picard's Christmas fantasy in "Generations" makes it close-to-almost-good, but I'd rather be kicked in the head by one of Shatner's horses than watch the rest of that movie. Which leads us to my favorite "Star Trek" film, "The Voyage Home." Feel free to tear me a new one in the comments, but I stand by that choice! It's a fresh perspective on an at-times stale franchise, it's funny, and is about spacemen visiting a strange yet familiar world -- which is how I feel around Christmastime anyway.
For our first Trekmas, we watched the unaired pilot starring Jeffrey Hunter, followed by a discussion of how he was the world's unluckiest man. (To summarize, he turned down the second "Star Trek" pilot to make movies. A few years later, while filming on location, was nearly blown up in a stunt gone wrong, went into shock on his flight home, and then died a few weeks later when he fell down the stairs. It would be a hilarious Leslie Nielsen sequence if it wasn't so tragic.) We then watched the 2009 Abrams-"Trek," pausing only for my brief lecture on the tim- travel paradoxes apparent when you consider the Romulan timeline established in TOS's "Balance of Terror."
But I digress. Because what I like most about Trekmas isn't the binge-watching, or the Trekmas cookies or even the humanism. It's that it's something my wife and I do together -- I curate the marathon and beam down the Federation-approved gifts while she bakes Trekmas cookies, roasts brisket and listens to my time-travel rant like it's the first time she's heard it.
At the end of the day, Trekmas isn't about "Star Trek" or Christmas. It's about doing something together. And though I'm new to the holiday, even a Starman like me can tell you that togetherness is the true meaning of Christmas.
Many of us have "geeky" holiday traditions. Share your own with us in the comments!
Howard I. Kaplan is a creative consultant and writer of comics, copy and content. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two-year-old son. Follow him on twitter at @howiekaplan.