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Nov 14 2013

Let My Hanukkah Go!

By at 10:40 am

hanukkah cupcakes and presents

I’m a Hanukkah purist. At least a purist from that sacred era of the 1980s, a time before the expression “Hanukkah craft” entered the average Jewish mother’s vernacular.

My parents and my friends’ parents knew that Hanukkah could never compare to Christmas. I don’t remember this community-wide hand-wringing over how the Jewish children could accept why radio stations and stores exclusively played Christmas music without including some versions of Dreidel Dreidel and Maoz Tzur. Nobody was worried about hurting Hanukkah’s feelings or making sure everyone’s holiday got the same size participation trophy every December.

I believe that the visual nature of social media platforms has made the Christmas-Hanukkah comparison significantly worse than in Hanukkahs past. I’ve seen Hanukkah-themed gingerbread houses and gingerbread cookies on Pinterest for goodness sake. While I realize there is no right and wrong way to get jazzed up about Hanukkah, I have to draw the line at gingerbread houses. I mean, come on. Read the rest of this entry →

Oct 30 2013

Why This Jewish Mom is Excited for Halloween This Year

By at 12:04 pm

instaghoul halloween decoration

Walking down the street here in Brooklyn, we are practically under a Halloween assault. It’s a riot of pumpkins, multicolored cobwebs, skeletons, and scarecrows. My 4-year-old calls out her favorites (pink cobwebs, in case you were curious) and even the baby can point to the pumpkins. There’s a house five blocks away that turned their entire front stoop into a pirate ship with a skeleton crew, and the witty folks on our walk to school have a spooky version of Instagram (they call it Instaghoul, and I giggle inside every morning).

I grew up celebrating Halloween. In fact, I never knew it was something that some Jews didn’t do until I got to college and someone lectured me on how its pagan origins made it something that Jews specifically shouldn’t do. I suppose that’s true—Halloween certainly was once something deeply religious, and not for the Jews. But that’s just not how it feels these days, at least to me. The majority of those celebrating Halloween in America aren’t doing it for religious reasons anymore. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 24 2012

Celebrating Christmas with My Jewish Grandmother

By at 5:09 pm

stockings“Mommy, is Grandma Dede Christian?”
“No, sweetie, she’s not. She’s Jewish.”
“Then why are we doing Christmas with her?”

This is the conversation I had with my 4-year-old daughter the other night over dinner. Grandma Dede is my beloved paternal grandmother, and today we are driving to New York to celebrate Christmas with her and the rest of my extended family. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 20 2012

The Jewish Mother’s Guide to Surviving Santa

By at 5:03 pm

santa clausAs someone who learned English from watching TV, wrote a Master’s Thesis about TV, then worked in TV, I feel I can say with certainty that Christmas specials, be they rip-offs (sorry, homages) of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Carol,” or “Miracle on 34th Street,” all share a common message: Nonbelievers Snooze, Nonbelievers Lose. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 18 2012

To Tree or Not to Tree? Jewish Answers to Christmas Trees

By at 1:01 pm

As Christmas approaches, many Jewish families, especially interfaith families, confront the question: Do you have a tree? Both married to non-Jews, but raising Jewish children, friends Aliza Worthington and Shoshana Martyniak have two very different answers.

Aliza: So, I have a Christmas tree in my house. Here’s why, not that you asked.

I’m married to a man who was raised Catholic. I was raised in a secular Jewish household by Jewish parents who insisted that the most important requirement for marriage was mutual love (lots of it) and mutual respect (lots of that, too). All other considerations were secondary. So, it surprised no one when my sister married a Catholic. When my grandmother learned my sister and her then-husband were going to have a Christmas tree, she said, “But, it won’t be a Jewish household!” Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 17 2012

How to Lose the Chip on Your Shoulder During Christmas

By at 5:03 pm

barbra steisand chirstmas albumWe Jews have two choices in our approach to the Christmas season: resent it, or embrace it. I for one vote for a big, sloppy embrace. In the name of love thy neighbor and tolerance, I say we hug it out with Christmas already and teach our kids to do the same.

Why? We expect our non-Jewish co-workers, friends, and neighbors to show heaps of interest and concern in all things Jewish. During the High Holy Days we ask our kids’ teachers not to assign big tests after those long days at shul. We offer unsolicited explanations about why Hanukkah is not, despite unfortunate evidence to the contrary, the most important event on our calendar. For the week of Passover we bore everyone we know with the reasons we’re eating matzah and other weird stuff. (Yes, gentile co-worker, that “Kosher for Passover” salad dressing seems over the top to me, too.) Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 11 2012

Celebrating War in a Time of Peace

By at 3:50 pm
maccabees

“Maccabees”

I have a shocking bit of information for TV producers, magazine editors, and greeting card writers everywhere: Hanukkah is not Christmas.

While this may be obvious to some, the subtle differences in the two celebrations appear to have been skimmed over by many in popular culture who have decided that, since both take place in December, and we don’t want to be insensitive to non-Christians, let’s make sure that whenever we talk about “the holiday season” we take great pains to point out how Hanukah and Christmas are each about peace on Earth, goodwill towards men, and universal brotherhood.  Read the rest of this entry →

A Christmas Lesson for My Jewish Son

By at 9:41 am

“…and I tried a new recipe this year, orange zested cranberry sauce. I think it was a hit. And the turkey! You should have seen the turkey we–”

My friend, who I had been catching up with, suddenly stopped mid-sentence. He glanced over at me, an apologetic look taking over his face.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Do you, you know, even celebrate Thanksgiving?”

My raised eyebrow and pointed stare were enough for him to start backpedaling. Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 10 2012

Is There a Right Way to Decorate for Hanukkah?

By at 9:59 am

“But why CAN’T we put up blue and white lights?” pleaded Lilly.

It was not the first time that one of our children has asked this question. Nor, as evidenced by the following advice from the 1959 Guide for the Jewish Homemaker, was this the first time a Jewish child had desired to emulate her neighbors:  Read the rest of this entry →

Dec 7 2012

How We Celebrate Both Hanukkah & Christmas

By at 1:16 pm

Each December, I tingle in anticipation of the upcoming holiday season. I savor it all…the songs, the sentiment, the TV specials, the homey smells of cinnamon, apple cider, and cookies, and the spirit of tzedakah.

I’m Jewish, born and raised in New York, married to a South African man who is the son of an Evangelist minister.

In our family, we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. Read the rest of this entry →

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