love hate December. Being a Jewish American it was always hard growing up wanting to decorate a tree, and hang pretty lights on my house. And of course I couldn’t tell anyone how jealous I was of the “rest of the world”. My parents were spending a small fortune sending me to yeshiva (Jewish day school), and all my friends lived close to each other (I was 30 minutes away) and in a tight knit Jewish community so I am sure they did not even feel like they were left out. Driving around their neighborhood, Christmas lights were replaced by Chanukah menorahs in all the windows.
I remember the first Christmas tree I had. All those thousands of dollars my parents spent were burning their pockets when I not only started dating a non-jew but actually started living with him. Since he had a daughter, I bought a tree and decorated it. I must say I wish I had a picture of that tree, because for a Jew, I did a pretty good job. That was over 10 years ago, and I have had a tree ever since. The only years that I have not celebrated Christmas were the years that I was living in my parents house and you cant even say Jesus so obviously a tree was out of the question.
These days I celebrate it all. I am raising my kids primarily Jewish. No Church unless my soon to be mother in law comes up with an excuse to use my very Jewish guilt to make me go. When I move in a few months, I will be joining a Conservative Synagogue, I celebrate all the Jewish holidays, but I still make room for the
Christian American ones. Because even though most of these secular holidays are based on non-Jewish concepts, to me they have become more like American traditions. I put up my tree, but in my window is an electric Menorah. I will go to the kids Christmas party at school, but as I type, my kids are with my parents at Town Hall for the Menorah lighting. I let the kids go on a Easter egg hunt, but we always make sure to have a Passover Seder-you get the point.
So this year, the last year my parents will be with us in NJ, I have made sure that every night my kids went to their house to light the menorah. I was glad that my mom made sure that my daughter had a homemade menorah just like her brothers.But I am also glad that they can celebrate Christmas. Not as a celebration of Jesus, but in true Jewish fashion, a time of family, happiness, and of course food and presents. Because at the end of the day isn’t that what it’s all about?