It’s here, the season is upon us. I’ve bought my Thanksgiving turkey (actually, I bought two, one for my mother’s house and one for Shabbat dinner this weekend). We’ve got our plans for Thanksgiving finalized – on Wednesday night, I’ll take my oldest daughter down to my mother’s so we can get up super early and cook with my mom. My husband will keep the little ones at home, for Chinese food and cartoons I won’t let them watch (Spongebob is their Thanksgiving tradition). We’ll meet up at my parent’s house, eat until we can’t move and then end the night at our friend’s house for dessert.
On the Friday after Thanksgiving, I’ll take down all my colored turkeys the kids have made for me, all the scribbled little gratitude lists they make each year in school and put them all away in my not-Hanukkah-and-Christmas holiday bin, and dig out the three or four bins of holiday decorations.
Last year, I promised myself that I was going to celebrate the December Dilemma is all it’s glory. To teach my kids that December is not a month where their mother is completely stressed out and frustrated, where Hanukkah and Christmas are embraced and appreciated. I’m going to sing Christmas carols and buy enough Hanukkah candles for the sixteen menorahs I managed to collect over the past few years. I’m going to create new traditions for each night of Hanukkah, and make cocoa with candy canes every night. I’m going to throw snowflakes up all over the walls, buy oceans of twinkling holiday lights, and read all the PJ Library Hanukkah books I can find. I’ll take the kids to the menorah lighting in Newton Square, I’ll listen to the Christmas CD my mother gave me ten years ago.
Most of all, I’ll try and remember that these are the memories I’m creating for my children. If I want them to grow up loving their Jewish identity, while still embracing the traditions and history from my side of the family, I have to show them that they can exist peacefully together. And this is incredibly hard to do, but only in December. In December, our family tradition includes a lot of angst, and endless debates about why we put up the tree, and if we’re doing enough to make sure that Hanukkah isn’t getting overshadowed by the candy canes and pretty lights.
The December Dilemma has always been an issue for us. We are not an interfaith family, we are a “dual-heritage” family. In December, those heritages are at odds, and it’s never an easy season. But this year, I’m promising myself that I’m going to hold tight to that image, the one of a peaceful and content and gratitude-filled holiday season, where the focus is on spending time with family and friends, eating latkes and cocoa with candy canes, and bringing as much light and celebration as possible into the cold, dark winter nights.