Most kids count down the days to Christmas from December 26 until December 25 of the next year. It’s a day of pure joy. Pure excitement. Anticipation. Smiles and pajamas and giggles and family and early mornings and messes of wrapping paper and ribbons.
Or so I hear.
Because I have never celebrated Christmas. Nope, no stockings hanging over my fireplace. No cookies left for Santa. No Christmas tree with beautiful colorful lights, memorable ornaments and a perfect star on top. No early morning wakings to see what Santa brought for me. Some of you may feel sad for me that I never got to experience the dazzle of this popular holiday. I actually felt sad myself when I was much younger. I felt a little left out. A little on the outside. But not REALLY. Just a little bit.
Because I had Chanukah. Eight days of dazzle. Eight days of waking up in the morning wondering what my gift that night would be. Eight days of walking into the living room with presents stacked high on the table. Eight days of lighting the candles on the menorah and singing a song I had grown to love (although never really knew what the Hebrew words meant). I loved Chanukah. As much as all of my friends loved Christmas. And I still love Chanukah but more from a different perspective. The perspective of watching my kids’ eyes light up when they see all of their presents stacked high on OUR living room floor. Last year I watched Hannah sit indian style in front of the stack of presents willing herself to see THROUGH the wrapping paper. Looking long and hard at the shapes and sizes of each gift trying to guess what they all were.
I try to make Chanukah look and feel as special as Christmas. Because it’s hard. To drive down our street and see the majority of the houses lit up with Christmas lights and trees. Jolly blow up Santas in the yards. Reindeer and sleighs climbing over the roofs. And not have any of that on our house. Hannah is at the age of asking why we can’t have all of that on our house. Many of my friends actually ask me the same. “Why don’t you just do it… for the kids?” And I know they don’t get it when I tell them it’s because we’re Jewish. And Jewish people (for the most part) just don’t decorate the house with Christmas decorations. Because it would be doing it just to Fit In. And we teach our kids that doing things just to fit in, is not ok. I ask them if they lived in a mostly Jewish town and THEIR kids were in the minority if they’d light a menorah to fit in… and they all quickly respond, “Well, no.” Don’t get me wrong, I’m super proud of my roots, my heritage, my upbringing but for a little kid, being even slightly different. Is hard. Because the Hoopla is all around Christmas where we live. And where the kids go to school. Hannah told me yesterday she asked EVERY kid in her class if they celebrate Christmas and all but one said yes. That was hard for her. And as a mom, I want to make things easy for her. I want things to make sense to her. I want her to feel proud of who she is. Proud of her religion. Her upbringing. So I make Chanukah a really big deal. With games and chocolate and extra ribbons and fun pink Chanukah drinks, and big dinner parties. And this year, we’re inviting her two best friends who are Christian to celebrate one night of Chanukah with her. So she can feel proud. And special. And they can understand what she does for HER holiday. All of her friends always tell her about the cookies they leave out for Santa and the traditions they have on Christmas Eve. Now her friends will get a taste of OUR traditions. Feel the warmth in our house during one of Hannah’s favorite times of year.
And maybe Hannah will stop asking me how we can get on that “list” that Santa gets each year telling him whose house he should go to with his sac of gifts. Because I’m running out of ways to avoid the topic.
What’s it like for you? Do you celebrate Christmas or Chanukah or something else? What’s the big kid’s gift in your house this year?