I’ve got a chip on my shoulder.
Oh December. This time of year that used to be just fun. It was, wasn’t it? There was a time when I approached the holidays with this sense of joy and wonder, I felt connected to everyone, all twinkling lights and candy canes.
I don’t do that anymore.
I arm myself with a thick skin and am ready for the inevitable attack. I have convinced myself that I’m alone in this – I’m a Jewish girl who loves Christmas, and a Christmas Tree Putter-Upper (I know, it’s a stupid term, but I’m not a former Christian – I guess I could say a former non-Jew) that really, really likes Hanukkah. I feel like society at large is mad at me. I don’t put Christ in Christmas, in fact, I actively try and keep him out. I embrace Christmas, singing Christmas carols and buy too many Christmas lights.
I avoid big Jewish celebrations and discussions about Hanukkah – because it inevitably slides over into complaining about the pervasiveness of Christmas and how that’s bad. I feel insecure and protective of my Christmas tree, like it’s a huge personification of how I approach the whole dual culture quandary – and just writing about this puts a lump in my throat. Because as much as I love this time of year, I really hate it.
I hate that my kids are stuck – even though I tried so hard for them to not feel in the middle, I put them there. They are Jewish, they know Christmas is not a Jewish holiday. They don’t feel guilty about celebrating Valentine’s Day, they love the Fourth of July and they really like Thanksgiving and Halloween. Those non-Jewish holidays don’t make them feel all conflicted. They know that they love Christmas too – because there’s a lot to love about it. It’s my holiday, after all. It’s got presents and an Elf that hides (so well, I still can’t find him from last year – but I digress). They WANT to celebrate Christmas, but it confuses them. A little. I think. Maybe.
I know their story isn’t mine. They are growing up as part of a dual culture family, and that’s going to be a part of their story in a way that it isn’t mine. They’ll have to figure out for themselves how they feel about the holiday. AlI I can do is the best I can – and now, that involves hiding how conflicted and frustrated I am by the entire holiday season. Because there’s a lot that Hanukkah and Christmas have in common – from my perspective, there’s a lot about bringing light and joy and connectedness into the dark winter season. Because latkes and donuts and candles and dreidels are awesome, and they deserve to celebrate that with their whole hearts. They are Jewish, and descendants from generations of Jews who have lit the menorah. They love my mother’s advent calendars (because there’s nothing not to love about chocolate every morning), they love the tree and the decorations – and that’s their heritage and birthright as well. They inherited that the way they inherited my shyness, my eyes and my love of reading.
The choices I’ve made have put me here. I’m grateful for that – because here is right where I want to be. It’s just that December is a hard month for me, and I can’t hide from that. I have to go into it knowing that it’s a really isolating time – and hope that the kids don’t inherit that as well. I hope that they embrace the holiday season, and own it like it’s their own. Because both holidays, Hanukkah and Christmas, are theirs. Just as they are both mine. And even if nobody else in the world agrees that we should celebrate both – we do. So bring on the tinsel and the dreidels – I’m ready.