I confess to a sense of relief after Dec. 25. To be able to say simply “Happy New Year!” and all feel equal, or as equal as we get these days. And since the holiday cards are still arriving at my house, I feel like I can still say it for a while.
It’s not that I don’t love Hannukah or have any Christmas envy, especially now that you can buy ugly Hannukah sweaters and decorations at major chains. (Thanks, Target!)
I don’t mind if someone wishes me a “Happy Holidays,” a “Merry Christmas” or a “Happy New Year” at any point starting in November. It’s all good. Like whatever delicious latte is in my Starbucks holiday cup. It makes me happy for the holiday season.
Still, every year I get asked by well-meaning non-Jewish friends, “Why is Hannukah so early, or late, or different?” And then it segues into questions about how many gifts do you really get. And it does make me feel a little misunderstood.
When Hannukah comes early in December—let’s all take a minute to remember the horror of Thanksgivukkah, deep breath—it is such a bummer to be done with my holiday while 99 percent of everyone else is still gearing up, shopping, wrapping, excited.
Yes, there’s a tiny bit of glee at everyone running around like crazy while I’m done, but mostly it’s a big disappointment.
One part of the holidays that I absolutely love is getting holiday cards from Thanksgiving (OK, those make me feel bad and behind schedule) into January. I got two in the mail yesterday. And I love sending them out. To be honest and geeky, it’s one of my favorite things to do all year.
Every fall, I force my family to dress in coordinating clothes and smiles for our wonderful former babysitter/now photographer. We meet at an arboretum and get a good family picture. I will threaten, bribe, scream and yell. The rest of our lives may be messy and crazy and not photogenic, but one nice photograph a year is my requirement.
I love seeing that one pic on our holiday cards and mailing the photo cards to everyone—family and friends, teachers and doctors, basically everyone we know.
While they do not say “Happy Hannukah” on them, they absolutely never have anything Christmas-y—no red or green, no wreaths, no merry, no trees, etc. I always debate getting a Hannukah-themed card, but the truth is, a huge majority of the people who will receive one are not Jewish. How does wishing them a holiday they don’t celebrate make any sense? (OK, I confess that the Hannukah designs aren’t usually that cute either.)
(P.S. I foolishly said yes at Costco when asked if I wanted holiday stamps, forgetting that holiday meant Christmas, in all the flurry of checking out there. I then had to go to the post office to buy Hannukah ones. I just couldn’t send out cards to Jewish friends and family with a Christmas stamp. I just couldn’t. Let’s just say my bills will now have “holiday” stamps for a long time.)
When I was young, I used to help my best friend decorate her tree every year. And the smell of that tree has got to be one of the best things in the world. But there’s absolutely no way on earth that I’d ever have a tree in my house or celebrate anything other than Hannukah, no matter how much you tell me about the pagan roots and melding of traditions and celebrations. OK, I do buy candy canes, but that’s about peppermint, not religion. And I certainly don’t put them out with the chocolate coins.
It’s really important to me that my children know that religion isn’t an “all of the above” type of choice. We celebrate Hannukah, we host a yearly Hannukah open house that reeks of latkes, and while we probably didn’t light the candles actually at sundown any of the nights, we did light them together every night.
So yes, I’m happy to go to a Christmas cookie-decorating party or join friends in any of their traditions, but not in our home. I guess it’s my line in the sand, or snow, or something.
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