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 →
Nov 26 2014
Sukkot may be the holiday when I de-clutter and get things out of my life, but on Thanksgiving and Hanukkah, I make sure to pay attention to my stuff.
We are at the start of the season when every store, television commercial, and radio jingle reminds us that we are supposed to let other people know how much we appreciate them… by buying them things. I’m not against the occasional Hanukkah present for my kids or tipping some of the hardworking and often underappreciated people in my life during the holiday season, but this year I am trying to focus on what I have and appreciating how lucky I am before I add to my collection of “things.” And I’m making my family join me.
I read recently that writing down what you’re grateful for every day can be transformative. In addition to cultivating an ongoing sense of gratitude and respect for our belongings and privileges, apparently the practice of putting pen to paper while thinking of how grateful we are can also lead to higher levels of alertness, enthusiasm, determination, optimism, and energy throughout the day. That sounds pretty good to me. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 30 2013
My father-in-law is the vice president of an evangelical missionary organization. Yes, evangelism. I know… that word has made me shiver a bit too. If I were to write a sitcom about our family dynamic we would get feedback that it’s unbelievable that the Jewish girl’s in-laws are missionaries… but they are. Truth.
When things started getting serious with my now husband and I, we both had conversations with each set of our parents about our feelings for one another and each other’s religions. We chatted with my parents in my aunt and uncle’s living room when my man and I were on Long Island for Passover. We discussed that while we would return annually to read from the haggadah and play with the four question finger puppets, my guy wasn’t giving up the big JC just because he was opening the door for Elijah.
And we talked to his parents while we were driving to lunch in Minnesota. Very strange to be looking at the back of someone’s head when you’re telling them you won’t be converting to their religion. 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 5 2013
We stood shivering in a hotel parking lot waiting for the lighting of a giant outdoor menorah. It was my first public menorah lighting and I was in full “mom mode,” pulling up hoods, chasing dropped dreidels, handing out gelt, and sort of pretending to be excited–but we were really there for the children.
Since we live on a farm outside of Jewish community, they need to see that Hanukkah doesn’t just happen at our house and at their grandparents’ house.
There were a few brief speakers and I was feeling pretty distracted, thinking of the Thai restaurant right across the street, wishing my children would stop swinging their light sticks at each other, and feeling cold. The rabbi was talking about our inner olive oil which burns longer than we expect, about our essential Jewishness, but my mind wandered. Read the rest of this entry →
Dec 4 2013
Tonight is the last night of Hanukkah, which means it’s not too late for your kids to find out what the holiday is all about (besides getting Hello Kitty socks, of course). Thanks to Kveller contributor Avital Norman Nathman for sending us this video made by the gan (kindergarten) class at her son’s school, Lander Grinspoon Academy in Northampton, MA. Adorable kids talking about miracles–what could be better? Enjoy!
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Dec 2 2013
Photo Credit: Mike Ervin
Catherine McCord always appreciated good food and the impact food has on health and well-being, but when her first son was born she struggled to find feeding tips and fresh, healthy recipes for kids. This was when Catherine decided to put her training at The Institute for Culinary Education in Manhattan to use as a food blogger. She posts weekly meals and cooking videos (with her kids!) on her website Weelicious.com. Catherine’s newest book, Weelicious Lunches, focuses on innovative solutions for quick, delicious, easy-to-make, lunch box meals that kids won’t be tempted to swap. I sat down to talk to her about toddler lunch monotony, her favorite Hanukkah foods, and more.
Feeding kids can be a stressful part of parenting. Clearly you work hard to make healthy meals that are appealing to your kids. What is your philosophy when it comes to them eating the food you serve? One bite to be polite?
I’m all about what works for you. Some families hope their kids will eat one bite and they’re satisfied; I find that when I include my kids in cooking it inspires them to want to try new foods. If they really don’t want to try something, I offer to let them sprinkle the food with Parmesan cheese, dip it in maple syrup, or top it with toasted sesame seeds, for example. Those little tips help all the time! Read the rest of this entry →
Nov 27 2013
A few months ago my husband and I returned to the Midwest, where we both grew up, after seven years of living in Los Angeles. Out in LA, we were far away from family, which meant that we often celebrated holidays on our own. Sure, it may sound sad, celebrating holidays alone, on the other side of the country. But there was a comfort in celebrating on our own, especially as an interfaith couple. We could observe the way we wanted, out of view of the watchful eyes of our family members–no one to check in and see how we were living out our respective traditions.
But this year is different. Not only are we back in the Midwest, and not only do we now have a 1-year-old, and not only will we have members from both sides of our families together, but for the first and last time in our lives, Thanksgiving and the second night of Hanukkah will also fall on the same day. Read the rest of this entry →