This morning on our (late and somewhat frenzied) drive to school, we had this conversation:
R: “We celebrate both Christmas and Chanukkah because we’re Jewiss.”
Me: “That’s exactly right, honey.”
R: “If we weren’t Jewiss we’d just celebrate Chanukkah.”
Me: “No honey, it’s because we’re Jewish that we celebrate Chanukkah. If you’re not Jewish, you might just celebrate Christmas.” (I didn’t find a need to delve into all the other December holidays and make this a learning moment about the diversity of beliefs — baby steps.)
R: “NO. Jews celebrate Christmas.” (clearly upset by our differing perspectives.)
Me: “Well… not really.
I proceeded to tell her that Daddy never celebrated Christmas growing up. And that I did (alongside Chanukkah) because, well, my Jewish and generally spiritual mom was all about “the more, the merrier.” Both holidays are close to my heart (although I hold zero religious connection to Christmas), but no one will argue that consumer culture makes Christmas look pretty darn good. I get the warm and fuzzies from all the cinnamon smells and wreaths and lights and luminarias. I certainly don’t go buck wild decorating my home, but in truth this is mostly because we’re always traveling the last two or so weeks of December (to south Florida, or as we all call it, “the land where Christmas doesn’t exist”).
Once I had kiddos of my own to play with during the winter holidays, I dove head first into a Pinterest hunt for fun, age-appropriate craft ideas. We’ve done a lot of salt dough ornaments, marshmallow dreidels, popsicle stick menorahs, paper menorahs, finger/hand painted menorahs, and popsicle stick stars of David. Tonight we might even venture into the world of pasta menorahs — you know, using 9 penne noodles and a lasagna noodle for the base. My favorite Chanukkah craft though, which I keep up year round in the playroom, is a faux stained glass star of David, made by cutting out a star shape in a black piece of construction paper and letting R glue strips of tissue paper across the void.
Our wreath also turned out beautifully this year, and was fashioned out of an old pizza box cut into an open circle. R and I had fun scouring our backyard for different types of leaves and berries, some of which we examined under R’s new microscope before they were arranged and glued onto the cardboard.
Last night we busied ourself with a fire-side cranberry/popcorn wreath. R loves using a needle to sew, so this was a perfect activity (although I’m slightly worried about K getting her hands on all the cranberries that no doubt made their way into secret hiding spots on the floor and deep carpet).
R goes to a wonderful pre-school at a Jewish congregation, so her exposure to Christmas-y stuff is mostly limited to Disney Junior, Target and pretty much every other place we’ve stepped foot into in the weeks following Halloween (ahem, Michaels, I’m looking at you!). But like I said, the Christmas overload makes me more holiday spirited than it does sad. I like to think that the sequestered and tiny Chanukkah display is proudly unique rather than lonely. I am, however, extra protective of and loving towards my Jewish-ness right now, in this post-election moment. But alas, that’s another post.
T always mollifies my unrequested desire to purchase a tree by saying that we can get one in an off-month, like February. Um, so not happening. He knows I’d never, ever do such a thing. And no amount of my historical, pagan-centered diatribes would make him really feel good about having a tree — or even the tree’s diminutive friend, the Chanukkah bush. And that’s ok, at least for now. We’ll keep fueling the magic behind Christmukkah and I’ll keep an ear out for my kiddos’ feet (covered by footed, festive pajamas, of course) padding down the hall as the scents of woodsmoke, pine, peppermint and orange waft throughout our home and we settle in to light the Menorah, sing, and give gifts with a side of thanks.