Wednesday, November 16, 2005


December Dilemma

I'm reading many journal entries about the upcoming holidays. This is an odd time of year for me because I was raised as an observant Catholic and my family tended to go WAY overboard with Christmas. Through my teenage years, I had my issues with the church and before I was married, embraced Judaism. It has been a good fit for me, and I am doing my best to raise my kids with a strong Jewish identity. But there is one undeniable truth - Hannukah is NOT Christmas!
Each year at this time, as everyone makes all their holiday preparations, I feel a little like a loose end. Oh, we decorate and make latkes and exchange gifts. Lighting the menorah with our children is heartwarming. But a dreidel and a few chocolate coins is not an even exchange for a stocking stuffed full of goodies. For years I worried about my kids feeling "left out". But I finally came to realize that this is what's normal for them. My children never had Christmas - so they don't have a sense of loss. It's really a little odd when another family wants to come "experience" Hanukkah. We gather at the table, say the prayer, light the candles, exchange a gift - and that's it. That's it?! That's it?! Yep - no orgy of gifts, no all day affair - that's it. Wait - pass the brisket and potato pancakes.
For a few years, we tried spending the Christmas holiday with my family. But after we ran off the road in a snowstorm one year, we stopped driving out to Indiana to be with my parents. We spent a couple of Christmases with my brother and his family. One year my daughter Adrienne blurted out that there was no Santa in front of his daughter at dinner. We were never invited back. Don't worry - my niece was so exhausted by that time, it went right over her head. No damage done.
In a way - I wish that they (whoever "they" are) hadn't tried to elevate Hanukkah to the Jewish equivalent of Christmas. It would be good to let it be what it is. I value the tradition - the Hebrew prayer, the candles, the story. I do feel part of an unbroken chain centuries long.

Written by sunflowerkat321 . Link to this entry

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I've often wished that the traditional [commercially-driven] Christmas was more simple, like you've described it. Fewer gifts but gifts that have meaning. A quiet dinner. It sounds so nice. Calmer than the insanity I know as Christmas! I think your children are lucky.Comment from
slowmotionlife - 12/16/03 2:57 PM

Well, you could fit what I know about Hanukkah into a thimble, so I'm glad you talked about it a bit here. Actually, it sounds wonderful. Heartwarming. And a lot more sane than hyped-up Christmas. It seems today that it's all about buy, buy, buy and not at all about remembering what the holiday is really about.Something ironic? I live in Indiana. And my hubby comes from Pennylvania. So we do the exact opposite of what you do. Comment from andreakingme - 12/15/03 8:15 PM