When I was a child my family had a Christmas tree, though we didn’t really call it that. We referred to it as the “tree”or to those of our faith who questioned, a Hanukkah Bush. Like Adam Sandler…did I mention I met him once when I was 16… points out in his group of Hanukkah songs it’s really not all that easy to get super psyched about Hanukkah with all the glitz and glory of Christmas.
Back in the 80s Hanukkah didn’t get as much attention as it does now. Thanks to Sandler and others like him who have fought to get our longer, but less glistening holiday more notice…err commercialization, my children are definitely exposed to more Hanukkah products than I ever was. My Facebook friends manage to make the holiday look glorious. I’ve even developed some of my own traditions that I repeat year after year to make this holiday special. On its own I’d say Hanukkah in my house is quite festive…but we also celebrate Christmas.
Like many marriages today, mine is interfaith. It has it’s advantages. There’s less fighting over where we go to on the holidays and our children get exposed to more than one religious option…if they grow up wanting to be Buddhists or Muslims that’s fine too, so long as they are happy. We aren’t religious people, but we are celebratory people. Here’s where the disadvantage comes in. Keeping Hanukkah exciting in a house full of Christmas is a challenge…a huge challenge.
This year with the Festival of Lights so historically early it’s been easier. Our menorah was lit days before any stockings were hung or that creepy looking Elf on the Shelf appeared. We’ve enjoyed our latkes and jelly doughnuts nightly. The kids have been enjoying their Hanukkah books and chocolate coins, and repeating the Hebrew candle blessings in their cute little toddler voices. My husband keeps suggesting I’m making a bigger deal than usual, well it is the first year that the children really understand what’s happening, but I think it’s because the holiday was no longer lost in the shadow of the tree, the lights, the wreath…the notion that any other holiday exists other than the big C. I mean, we did have to share Hanukkah with Thanksgiving this year, but the glow of candles outshine a big old dead bird any day if you ask me.
As my children grow I will forever struggle to keep the glow of the Hanukkah festival as enticing as the glow of the Christmas tree. Santa visits and great big presents will always seem more interesting to a child, but I will do my best to make sure my children understand and appreciate their Jewish heritage…after all mine is the holiday with the jelly doughnuts.