Sunday, January 07, 2007

Reflections on Chrismukkah

Does Hanukkah get the short end of the winter holiday stick? Of course, how can it compete with the Christmas machine? Elliot said to me, "Mom, since I'm both Christian and Jewish, can we have some decorations at our house? Maybe we can put candy canes in our back yard." Ha! I love it.

He's right, we're out of the mainstream. He wants the big splash of giant evergreen trees and candy colored holiday lights. We don't celebrate Christmas at our house. We have no tree, no lights etc. We have a red winterberry wreath, but apparently that doesn't count. Not celebrating Christmas (at this point in their lives) is really the biggest Jewish identity builder our kids can have. I don't identify with Christianity and never have, so Christmas in my family is really just a winter family gathering. Hanukkah is our winter family gathering. I don't feel the need to have a tree or decorate. I'm sure Elliot will get it someday.

I love Jewish culture, I signed up to keep it alive and pass on that Jewish history / tradition / identity to our children as much we can in our crazy mixed up world. Since I was raised without any religious affiliation and neither were my parents or grandparents (philosophically/spiritually, certain aspects of paganism, renewal judaism, buddhism and unitarianism appeal to me) I like the feeling of having an actual religious cultural calendar (although we don't belong to a temple currently and I'll never be Jewish). We observe passover, the high holidays and hanukkah. The boys do occasional shabbat dinners with their grandparents.

Bessie asked me how do you get your Jewish husband to participate in Hanukkah? Having Grandma and Grandpa near helps. But we we read Hanukkah bedtime stories. We have a Hanukkah party every year and we light the menorah nightly (or we try to, it doesn't always work out). After several years of giving small presents for 8 days and dealing with Elliot crying every night because he wanted more, we decided to do the one big night of presents route (much more successful). I would like us to do one night of volunteering next year as well.

We do the Christmas thing with my family every other year and that's enough. I wonder if Elliot will miss it next year. I feel like I buy just as many presents either way, but it feels just a bit more sane. I have to be careful about how I pitch our LA Christmas, I caught myself saying, "Wait until we get to LA you'll get a lot of presents there." If we really want them to have a Jewish identity we'll have to join a temple.

Chrismukkah according to Wikipedia, has many meanings: the commercialization of Hanukkah, the hybrid holiday of Christmas and Hanukkah in interfaith heritage households, Christmas as celebrated by a Jewish household, and an ironic alternative winter holiday such as Festivus.

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