The Christmas push is on. Red and green and bits of tinsel are being crammed into an aisle or two in many stores. An almost infinite variety of Christmas wrapping paper is popping up everywhere. Last week, I was treated to a host of heavenly angels doing an easy-listening rendition of some carol or other while I shopped for peanut butter and cat food.
And in the spirit of multi-culturalism, here come the Hanukkah displays: matzah, kosher grape juice, and yahrzeit candles.
Every Jewish holiday. Every time.
With the exception of grocery stores in the more Jewish neighborhoods, every Jewish holiday seems to mean a single aisle endcap display of matzah, grape juice, and “jelly glass” candles. I’m 55 years old, and this has always been the case.
I’m long past the days of yearning for a tree or a visit from Santa. I take great joy in lighting the several menorahs we have—some bought, some made. I finally learned to make latkes from scratch and give my dad grief when he douses them in salt and ketchup rather than apple sauce. I still love Christmas carols, still hate egg nog, and I have no problem with mall Santas and cashiers who wish me “Merry Christmas!” as they hand me my change.
Here’s where I get stuck: matzah, grape juice, and candles.
You’d think, after all this time, after the science that marketing has become—where advertising and manipulation and cash go hand in hand—these grocery stores would at least learn to distinguish which Jewish holiday requires matzah, which require menorah candles, and when to lay out the yahrzeit candles (hint: people die year-round). I won’t even get into the major retailers who refuse to carry any Hanukkah merchandise in their glut of holiday paraphernalia. Refuse. It’s 2016. for crying out loud. I’ve called corporate offices. They all have a policy. That’s fine; I have money to burn and other stores in which to burn it.
I’m not calling for a Marketing and Merchandising Symposium to ensure we Jews have a place at the tchotchke trough. This time of year, as thoughts of good cheer and family dance in my head, it would be nice if my family and I were considered a part of that dance, regardless of our religion. And while we’re at it, let’s hear it for the Muslims, Buddhists, Wiccans, and Zoroastrians, too. Yes, I said Zoroastrians. Invite them all to the party. If I matter, surely they matter as well! This isn’t a war on holidays, it’s a celebration.
Because it’s not The Stuff. It’s what The Stuff represents: that we are Outsiders. Still. It would be nice to feel as if my “stuff” matters.
It would be nice if the matzah stayed in its crates in the warehouse, waiting for spring to come.