Dec 15 2014
Around this time of year, I start seeing Christmas lights go up on neighbors’ houses; they’re beautiful, and I appreciate their sparkling beauty. I’d be lying, though, if I didn’t say that I also see things that make me see red, which we can file under the general heading of “Ways To Make Hanukkah More Like Christmas.” From pictures of “Hanukkah bushes” to gingerbread hanukkiyot to “Elf on a Shelf” knockoffs (ahem!), it seems like many people want Hanukkah to be more like Christmas.
Why are people trying to turn a Jewish holiday about religious freedom…into Christmas? Christmas is a beautiful holiday, but you know something? It is not my holiday, and that’s OK. Moreover, I don’t want Hanukkah to become some weird knockoff Christmas–nor should it. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 1 2014
Growing up, ours was the only house on the block with a menorah glowing in the window. This should have put me onto the fast track to Christmas envy, but it didn’t. I respected Christmas, but was never jealous of those who celebrated. In fact, watching my neighbors actually gave me a deeper appreciation for the simpler joys of Hanukkah. Here’s why:
1. Early-Bird Shopping.
Celebrating Hanukkah means I usually have an earlier gift-buying deadline to meet than my counterparts. I have to get myself in gear way before Christmas shopping madness descends on the rest of the world. By Thanksgiving, I’m usually done. I spend most Black Fridays sipping spiced cider and recovering from a turkey-induced coma. Being Jewish means never having to freeze my tuchus off in a parking lot, waiting for a “Midnight Door Buster” sale.
2. Decorating Ease. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 23 2013
I think Christmas and I are breaking up. Itʼs not an easy thing to say. But nevertheless, there it is; itʼs time to end my Christmas love affair. My rabbi/husband will be thrilled.
I suppose a little explanation is in order. I do not celebrate Christmas. I never have. I grew up in a Jewish household and Christmas, unlike bacon, was strictly off limits. As young children my brother and I were carted off to the Concord Hotel in the Catskills where Christmas was apparently also verboten. There we ate (and ate and ate) and swam and played and hid from all things tinsel-strewn and poinsettia-adorned.
As we grew, and our grandparents made what used to be the legally-required pilgrimage to the Sunshine State, trips to the Concord became flights to Ft. Lauderdale, and Christmas began to creep in. At first it was just a palm tree covered in white lights here and there, but slowly this lovely holiday crept into my consciousness.
By the time we hit junior high my parents, feeling secure in their Jewish immersion duties, moved the Florida trip to February break and we began to spend December taking in New York Cityʼs delights of the season: shop windows on Fifth Avenue, the Nutcracker, the Rockettes, even a stroll right under that majestic Christmas tree in Rockefeller Center. I fell in love. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 16 2013
I am not a practicing Jew, but I don’t celebrate Christmas either. My husband is a lapsed Christian and a loather of all things Yule. Late December has always been an uncomfortable time in our house. Until, that is, we decided four years ago to send our kids to a Jewish school.
It was a surprisingly easy decision, made for a host of sound reasons, exactly the ones you would expect to figure into a choice about the expanse of your children’s education. But it also solved the problem of Christmas for us and this has turned out to be one of its most wonderful virtues.
I spent the holiday season as a girl in small Jewish niche towns–Great Neck and Boca Raton–where the passing of Christmas was marked in its own ritualistic way, with Chinese food and a trip to the movies. So many happy memories. When I moved to the United Kingdom 14 years ago, however, Christmas became a dark and almost unbearable period, something to escape, not to indulge in. It triggered in me a strong desire to flee homeward and back to a place where there is still a life to be lived on the 25th of December that doesn’t involve a decorated pine tree. Read the rest of this entry →
Hello, December. It’s that time of year here in America. A time for good tidings of comfort and joy. A time for happy family memories and meaningful traditions. But for me and my interfaith marriage, December now comes packaged with a new tradition–an annual holiday cry (or if I’m really being honest…cries. Plural.)
Now I know a lot of people cry during the holidays. The pressure of stressful travel plans and forced family gatherings is enough to make many people crack. But for the interfaith family, December is a particularly lonely time.
I go online to order holiday cards. (I am a little behind this year.) I skip over the red and green ones, the ones with Christmas trees or holly or Santa Claus, the ones that say “Merry Christmas,” the ones that say “Happy Hanukkah,” and I’m left to choose from lots of cards with “Seasons Greetings” or “Happy Holidays” written generically on the front. After much much agonizing, I pick, “Peace, Joy, and Love.” Those are things that people from all faiths want, right? Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 18 2012
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
We 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 →
Nov 30 2011
Making an interfaith family work isn't always easy.
This year, it felt like the “holiday season” started really early. I specifically went to Starbucks on October 31 to get a pumpkin latte, in fear that by the next day they’d have switched to the “holiday drinks” and I was right. November 1 was the unofficial start of Christmas music, Christmas shopping, and Christmas decorations (and by unofficial, I really mean official).
Now, though I enjoy some aspects of the “holiday” (read: Christmas) spirit, I truthfully just ignore most of it and live in my little Jewish-world bubble in November and December.
But the other day I was talking to friends of mine who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah who are trying to navigate how to teach both holidays to their 2-year-old. It’s not always as easy as just buying a tree and lighting a menorah. I was really happy that I could tell them about this program at the Museum of Jewish Heritage coming up THIS SUNDAY to help with the dreaded December dilemma. Not only is the program free, and not only will there be music for the kids at the beginning, but then parents can listen to columnist Julie Wiener from The Jewish Week give insight on how she and her family navigated their interfaith challenges. And the kids have babysitting. WIN-WIN.
Museum of Jewish Heritage
36 Battery Place | New York, NY 10280 | 646.437.4202
Sunday, December 4, 11 am.
Don’t miss it. (Again, non-New Yorkers, I’m sorry.)
Sep 28 2011
The closest thing you're going to get to an owner's manual.
Don’t you just wish they came with one? It would be so much easier to be a parent if there were instructions. Like, this kind of a cry at 3 am means your child is tired. Or, this weird thing they’re doing with their mouth means that your child is hungry. If only. I remember in those early days of parenting thinking that it was so crazy that I A) had a kid and B) they sent us home from the hospital as if we knew what to do with her. I mean, eventually we figured it out, but it took a lot of help.
Speaking of help–we know just the place to go (besides Kveller, of course!) If you’re looking for expert advice, the community of other new (and confused) parents, and maybe a bagel and some coffee, look no further than the Museum of Jewish Heritage on the first Sunday of every month this fall. On October 2, they’ll solve your sleep issues. November 6, they’ll focus on greening your home, making everything from food to toys eco-friendly. And on December 4, the December dilemma–how to balance the holiday season in an interfaith home.
And did we mention there’s a safe play area for your kids so you can actually listen to the experts talk? Oh, and bagels. For more details, check out The Museum of Jewish Heritage.
We think this is as close as you’ll come to getting that owner’s manual… so don’t miss it!