Frog and Toad Christmas story – a Jewish FAIL

As a huge fan of the Frog and Toad series, I have read all the books with two of my kids (so far). On the most recent reading of Frog and Toad All Year, I noticed something odd about the last story which is a heart-warming Christmas story. It is obvious that the author, Arnold Lobel, has never experienced Christmas, even though he tries hard to fake it.

Here is the story, Christmas Eve, and how it screams “Arnold Lobel is a Jew”.

The opening line: “On Christmas Eve Toad cooked a big dinner.”

Yes, Toad is expecting Frog for a big dinner he cooked and plans to serve on Christmas Eve. Arnold, even though Jewish holidays start the night before, with a big meal (of course) and even though the day before Christmas is called Christmas Eve, Christmas dinner is actually eaten on Christmas DAY. Also note the focus on the food. It gets the opening line.

Next Toad is worried because Frog is late. Not a little worried, no, kind of more like totally panicked.

“I am worried,” said Toad. “What if something terrible has happened?” said Toad.“What if Frog had fallen into a deep hole and cannot get out? I will never see him again!”…“What if Frog is lost in the woods?” … “What if he is cold and wet and hungry?” …“What if Frog is being chased by a big animal with many sharp teeth? What if he is being eaten up?” cried Toad. “My friend and I will never have another Christmas together!”

Sounds like some is late for the seder here. This reminds me strongly of when my husband and I were late coming to my mother-in-law’s house because we were shovelling out our car at the airport. She was sure our plane had crashed.

Toad creates a a whole plan and sets out to rescue Frog from certain doom. On his way he meets Frog who is late because he was wrapping Toad’s present. Toad admonishes  Frog : “You are not at the bottom of a hole? …You are not lost in the woods?…You are not being eaten by a big animal?”

Nothing like a huge guilt trip to say I am glad to see you! Why didn’t you call, Frog! Toad was worried sick!

Then Toad opens Frog’s present.

On Chrismas EVE. Ever heard of Christmas morning, running down to the tree to open your gifts? Not Arnold Lobel.

The story ends: The two friends sat by the fire. The hands of the clock moved to show the hours of a merry Christmas Eve.

They are not doing anything else like listening to music or something because that is forbidden by tradition  (or not!).

Also Frog and Toad do not hang stockings, leave cookies for Santa, wonder if Santa can find them, look for reindeer, make a list for Santa*, go to church or roast chestnuts.
The final illustration has Frog and Toad sitting by the fire. On the mantle there are no stockings or candy canes. But there are two lit candles, winking at us.

* Toad does make a list in Frog and Toad Together, but it is a to do list and when it blows away he totally freaks out.
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7 Responses to Frog and Toad Christmas story – a Jewish FAIL

  1. Michael Fessler says:

    Applause! Miriam and I are rolling on the floor laughing. How did we never see this? Too close, I guess….

  2. As I commented when a friend posted this on Facebook… It’s not a fail, it’s accurate. Many have these traditions for Christmas Eve, not day, including my step-mother’s family. She, like others with ancestry in Northern Europe, opens presents at night and enjoys a family meal. Day is reserved for seeing what St Nicolas left in the stockings overnight.

    Besides which, Jews don’t own guilt. Catholics are doing their part too!

    • It is absolutely true that Northern Europe mostly celebrates Christmas with a big meal and present opening in the evening. But I doubt that Arnold Lobel was drawing from that tradition.
      And yes Jews don’t own guilt. But again, I doubt Arnold Lobel was drawing on his Catholic experience. Besides it is even more unlikely that was both from Northern Europe _and_ Catholic!
      He was, in fact, Jewish.

      What does it say that this fun post has had more responses than anything serious I posted?

  3. Actually the most (email) responses I have received were from interfaith families who thought it was inclusive and positive. Yours is the first to mention this problem.
    I am so sorry – this was not meant to be offensive and I am sorry to portray mainstream American Christian practice as the only way of practicing! (It is the normative form in the place where Lobel lived and wrote).
    My only point is that is more likely Lobel was drawing on his Jewish experience and not his knowledge (if any) of European Christian practice. But I should have acknowledged the many ways of practicing.

  4. Randi says:

    I’m also coming from the same Facebook link as Benjamin; I grew up in a Lutheran home of mostly Norwegian extraction, and we always did dinner and opening of presents on Christmas Eve. Whether or not Mr. Lobel ever experienced Christmas, he created a scenario that is familiar to me, who experienced twentysome of them. And latecomers would have been worried about!

    That being said, I did enjoy the lighthearted tone and interesting eisegetical take of this post, and I don’t think you have anything to apologize for. But, just as it can be awkward when Christians comment about authentic Judaism, the reverse is also true.

  5. Reblogged this on Rainbow Tallit Baby and commented:

    For whatever reason this is one of my most liked blog posts of all time- for those of you who missed it the first time around…

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