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By Contributing Mama Karen Palmer Bland

Whoever coined the phrase, “There is no place like home for the holidays” must not have been Jewish. I can honestly say that our home has never felt “magical” at Hanukkah. I mean, who really wants to see a revolving menorah on the front lawn?

Last week, I dropped off something at our neighbors’ house and I was completely mesmerized by what I saw. Everything from a Christmas welcome mat, to a dozen decorated trees, to a gold reindeer that was staring me down – as if he knew I wasn’t a part of the reindeer games. I’m sure there was music playing throughout the house and the smell of fresh gingerbread coming from the kitchen.  Ok maybe not – after all,  it was 9pm on a Monday night and I’m quite sure that my neighbors were in bed. But take it from this Jewish girl, sometimes being Jewish isn’t quite as fun during the Christmas season.

So how do I explain this to Rory, my 4 year-old? He was asking me where Santa is just the other day, and all I could say was, “Santa is at the Galleria on Saturday and at Frontenac Plaza on Sunday.” All true, right?

Rory is confused (and rightfully so) as to why his cousins (who are Methodist) celebrate Christmas. “Mommy, they have a tree with  candy canes and they decorate gingerbread houses.”  I’m sure he is thinking, “Why do we  just keep reading books about an 8-day marathon of greasy hash browns and some sort of spinning game that resembles a toy from 1940?”

When people say that the holidays are stressful, I now know what they mean.  It’s about neurotic moms like me who freak out about not wanting their kids to feel left out. Of not wanting my kids to have Christmas envy. Of wanting Hanukkah to feel magical and smell of mint and cinnamon.

As a kid, I loved the holidays. Come to think about it, I never thought about Hanukkah vs. Christmas (or any other holidays, for that matter).  I just thought about the fact that I didn’t have to go to school for two weeks and I got lots of presents. I think it is better to just be a kid and think in these terms.  This is MY issue and not my kids’ issue.  They are happy.  Why complicate it?

When we walked into a toy store last week, the owner leaned over to little Rory and said, “Is someone coming to visit you at your house in about 10 days?” Rory looked confused – maybe he thought she was talking about our cleaning lady who comes every two weeks. Before this mystery went on any longer, I quickly jumped in, “No one is coming….umm…..we’re Jewish. We, along with 2% of the world, celebrate the festival of lights and we celebrate the fact that the oil lasted for 8 nights. Our celebration lasts for 8 days.  It’s actually a minor holiday in the Jewish religion……”. (Was this too much information or what? She was thinking SILENT NIGHT LADY!)

At Rory’s preschool they are very careful to have a HOLIDAY party with HOLIDAY books and HOLIDAY decorations.  No Menorahs and no Santas – only mittens and snowmen. But the other day, Rory came home and told me he decorated a sugar cone with green icing and ornaments to make an edible tree. I don’t think it was a Hanukah bush my friends.

Relax, Karen. My kids are happy.  They love the presents and the celebrating. And, I must admit that I love to blast the Christmas music in my car.  It’s funny that many of my Jewish friends love to celebrate Christmas.  We tell ourselves that it’s more like the 4th of July – just fun and festive. And I just keep telling Rory that 8 days of Hanukah is 7 days longer than Christmas. He watches Sesame Street and understands math, so it sounds like a pretty good deal to him.

7 Responses to christmas envy

  • Terra says:

    Christmas celebrating mom here…But I have to say with a 3 year old that can\\\’t wait for you know who to come I know it can not be easy to really explain these things to the young kids.  I am sure by next year it will no longer be confusing and he will embrace his celebrations just as much as his methodist cousins!  Their little brains can only handle so much!  Loved your post!

  • Robyn says:

    I posted on this EXACT topic (I think with the same post title, too). I love everything Christmas , except the actual religious aspect, and my house reflects that. It’s a perk for marrying a goy!

  • Aunt Marcia (Guess Whose?) says:

    Both my parents were Jewish, and we celebrated Xmas with hanging stockings, gift giving and Xmas dinner with the entire Jewish family.  My father in his infinite wisdom explained to the rest of the family, ‘we are celebrating Peace on Earth, Goodwill toward Mankind’….every religion can get behind a celebration like that.  So as a child I never felt ‘left out’ of all the Xmas excitement….we were always a part of it.

  • Rhea says:

    I totally think you guys (Jewish folks) need to start a movement to spruce up your holidays.  You know, like add festive colors and weird yard blow-ups.  It\\\’d be fun!

  • Lanie says:

    I am not there (because the twins are only 17 months and very happy to sit in the box that the gifts come in) yet but I think that I will feel that same way you do.  Great post! 

  • Shylo says:

    I’m pregnant with our first baby (due in April). We don’t celebrate Christmas — or any other wintertime religious holiday. I’m trying to figure out how to either a) explain this to my kid b) make some room for some kind of acceptable holiday celebration or c) hibernate.  I really like your relaxed approach to your Christmas/Hanukkah predicament!

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kelcey kintner