Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Celebrating Christmas with 97% Enthusiasm

Two people in the NASCAR industry wished me a “Happy Hannukah” this season. It happens just about every year.

How the last name “Giangola” can be mistaken to be Jewish is beyond me. But I don’t mind one bit.

When someone assumes a person is Jewish, certain stereotypes are at play. Being dumb or a failure aren’t among them. Folks are sizing me up as a smart, successful guy. Even if that’s widely off the mark, I’ll take it. Hey, Jesus himself was born, raised and died a Jew. Count me an unofficial member of the Tribe.

A few years ago, walking with a friend past a half-lit menorah, she wished me a happy Hannukah.

“Uh, my name ends in a vowel,” I said. “Isn’t that a clue I’m an Italian Christian?”

She answered, “Well, you know, you work in the New York office, so I just thought…”

Now that cracked me up. Jerry Seinfeld couldn’t have written that. I work in New York, therefore I am a Jew.

Which brings me to the unique Christmas gift I received this year: Turns out, I am Jewish. Well, a wee bit. I'm not doused in the Manischewitz, a la Victory Lane; it's just a schpritz.

You see, my brother James, who lives in Brazil and could be considered loveably eccentric in some ways, recently had a DNA test to determine his ultimate roots. I could have saved him the time and money . Go far enough back into investigating your respective family trees, and all human beings hail from a nice couple in West Africa.

Nonetheless, I couldn’t get to James in time. He turned over his blood, and the tests came back: the Giangola’s are 3% Semitic (or as the nice official scientific-looking pie chart says: 3%, ASHKENAZI JEWISH.)

I’ll now accept the Happy Hannukah greetings, mention my brother’s blood test, and hum a song ever-present in the malls this time of year such as “White Christmas,” “Winter Wonderland,” “We Need a Little Christmas,” “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” or “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” All written by Jews.

A year from now, next to our tree, you’ll see the menorah many assumed I’ve always had.

Indeed, we are much more alike than different.

Peace and goodwill toward you all, whether a tree or line of candles lights up your living room. Shalom and Amen.


  1. How much Arab / Syrian are you?
    Why doesn't NASCAR have a float in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade?

  2. Paul -
    I will have to ask brother James about any possible Arab/Syrian component; when sharing the results, he said all roads for our family seem to lead to Asia -- specifically Central Mongolia, which may explain my intense daily craving for hot & sour soup. (I'm still a bit confused about this; I was under the impression all humans ultimately come from Western said it in the TIMES Science section, although that means a shaker of salt these days...Jason Blair wrote for them, right?)

    On your Thanksgiving Day parade question, I'm not the decision maker here, but my take is that when you're showcasing NASCAR, it should be loud and fast...the exact opposite of a Thanksgiving Day Parade float. The recent Victory Lap in Vegas on the Vegas strip this year is the type of place/event NASCAR needs to be, in my opinion. Jimmmie Johnson's burnouts were incredible....he even dropped an axle right there on Las Vegas Blvd.

    Cheers, Andrew

  3. Andrew, I hope you realize that this also makes you closely related to the Armenian's of Eastern Europe and Huntington, NY. This explains many things that I should have connected years ago. Joe