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.
The town where I spent my childhood could probably be seen from space. Every year, on the day after Thanksgiving, the neighborhood dads would hang Christmas decorations. They could all be found precariously perched on their roofs, stringing lights across the rain gutters. Plastic Santas and their reindeer would be dragged two stories into the air and then somehow fastened to shingles. I watched the scene, year after year, relieved we didn’t have to do the same. My dad + wires + heights = certain doom. The expectations for Hanukkah décor are less labor intensive. We plug in an electric menorah and park it on the windowsill. Done.
3. Time for Fun.
My non-Jewish friends have to find time for their kids, spouses, siblings, parents, cousins, in-laws, and their Great Aunt Shirley that flies in from Nebraska once a year, all within 24 hours. I get eight days to fill with lots of family togetherness. Eight. Long. Days.
4. No Tall Tales.
I am grateful that I don’t have to remember to hide an Elf on the Shelf in a new spot each day. And I don’t have to make up stories to tell my daughters about how a jolly fellow actually gets around the world in one night, or explain how reindeer’s nose can glow in the dark. Instead, I get to teach them the dreidel game while we snack on latkes. Bonus: We don’t have to share our treats with anyone’s flying pets.
5. The Music.
Only kidding. This is a category where I can’t honestly come up with a “perk” for the Jews… there just isn’t as much Hanukkah music. Let’s see, we’ve got “I Have A Little Dreidel,” and, um, what else? Seriously, what did suburban Jewish kids listen to before Adam Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song”?
6. The Food.
Hanukkah is the holiday of deep-fried everything. And chocolate gelt. ‘Nuf said.
7. Holiday Spirit.
Whether families are making Christmas cookies or sufganiyot, the whole month of December is dusted with powdered sugar and scented with vanilla. Everyone’s mood seems to lift. People are kinder and more forgiving. It’s easier to believe that miracles can–and do–happen. This holiday season, I wish everyone peace, joy, and magic.