It’s beginning to look a lot like Hanukkah

29 Nov

It’s Christmas time! That holly jolly time of year that we await eagerly. Houses are decked, trees are lit. Children are half out of their minds with anticipation. Radio stations play carols around the clock. Every night, there’s another holiday special to watch.

And every year, Christmas makes me glad there is Hanukkah.

Hanukkah really shouldn’t be compared to Christmas but they happen at the same time of year so I guess it’s inevitable. Hanukkah is a minor holiday in the Jewish calendar, not like Yom Kippur, which is the heavyweight. Someone joked once that many of the Jewish holidays follow the same theme: “They tried to kill us; we won. Let’s eat.” Hanukkah is one of those holidays.

Christmas exhausts me.

I start thinking about Christmas gifts for friends and family some time in August. I do this not because I’m particularly organized, but because I can’t afford to make the entire Christmas sacrifice in a single month.

Hanukkah? We don’t do gifts at Hanukkah.  I tried doing treats for each night when my son was very young. Every night, he got some dumb little thing. On the ninth night at sundown, he said, “Where’s my present?”

Since then, the kids have had parties for Hanukkah; one year we made pretzels. This year, we’ll have a small dinner party with brisket and latkes. I might even make rugelach. I will make this dinner once, even though Hanukkah lasts eight days. My daughter is inviting her best friend. My son is inviting his girlfriend. My daughter’s friend is invited to sleepover, too. My son’s girlfriend is not.

Christmas decorating takes three days, but it takes me at least three weeks to build up the momentum to accomplish it. I keep all holiday decorations in big plastic bins in the crawlspace. Halloween has a bin, as do Passover, Easter and Chinese New Year. Christmas has eleven bins, not counting the box—large enough to hide a small body in—that contains the Christmas tree.

It takes at least four trips up and down the stairs from the basement to get all of the Christmas gear into the living room. Two people are needed to move the casket tree box. Every year, I’m afraid my husband or son will go tumbling down the staircase should the tree moving go horribly wrong.

Because my husband is Jewish I’m a control freak, only I can put the lights on the tree. It takes me at least three hours, after which my arms are shredded from winding strands of lights in and out of the tree’s branches. I always have either too much left when I get to the top, or too little. It can take me half an hour to get the top of the tree lit to my liking.

The next day, I put the ornaments on the tree. My daughter helps; my son says he does, but I can’t recall this phenomenon. Maybe this year, I’ll take pictures. My son’s greatest contribution to Christmas decorating is his insistence that my daughter and I cease listening to carols while we decorate because, as he says, “Christmas music is crap.” I respond with “Yes, of course it’s crap! But it’s Christmas crap. How else am I going to get in the mood to spend three days decorating the house?”

Decorating for Hanukkah? I bring the Hanukkah box up from the basement by myself. I take out the menorahs; we have one big family one and the kids each have their own. It is necessary for each child to have their own or Hanukkah turns from the Festival of Lights, to the Festival of Whining That He/She Lit The Shamash Last Night.

The extent of my outdoor Christmas decorating is hanging a festive wreath on the door. My inner Martha Stewart demands that an outdoor light display be artistic and neatly applied. This is impossible to achieve unless you are, indeed, Martha Stewart assisted by Santa’s Elves.

Photo: Martha Stewart Omnimedia

Hanukkah display? I’m all over that one with our driveway menorah. We start with one luminaria at the end of the drive near the house. Each night, we add another luminaria until, on the eighth night, there are eight luminarias lining the drive. It’s artistic, it’s neat and it’s easy.

I only have two problems with Hanukkah. Though we start the holiday with the best of intentions—that we will light the candles and say the blessings every night—invariably, we forget at least once.

The other Hanukkah problem is a matter of timing. Because it’s based on the Jewish calendar, Hanukkah wanders all over December from year to year. Every year, I check the calendar and every year that Christmas minds its manners and stays away from Hanukkah, I breathe a sigh of relief.

I love Hanukkah because, like Christmas, it brings light to the darkest time of year. But more, I love Hanukkah because its more low-key festivities help me ease into the holiday spirit. This year, Hanukkah begins at sundown on December eighth. We’ll light the candles for eight nights. Then on December 17, I’ll polish the menorah, put it back in its velvet-lined box and be ready to begin the hoopla that is Christmas.


17 Responses to “It’s beginning to look a lot like Hanukkah”

  1. The Hook November 29, 2012 at 8:59 am #

    Very beautiful. Thank you.

  2. lucewriter November 29, 2012 at 9:35 am #

    From the picture you have here, your house looks and sounds like mine: Hanukkah, Christmas, a young Asian person . . . .

    • jmlindy422 November 29, 2012 at 9:38 am #

      Exactly! Here’s to the multicultural, multiracial stew that is our lives. Thanks for reading.

  3. philosophermouseofthehedge November 29, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    We grew up around a big Jewish community (and it was always spelled with “Ch” then) so it seems normal to have them both around. I like the menorahs that look like tree branches because they are pretty – the sidewalk idea is terrific. And love this line ““They tried to kill us; we won. Let’s eat.” – it would fit right in with the neighborhood!
    Well, need to go shove the various holiday bins around, too ( how did we live without plastic bins -( oh, yeah cardboard boxes limp from humidity, dusty, and covered with duct tape to make them last one more year)
    Nice post

    • jmlindy422 November 29, 2012 at 1:29 pm #

      There are very few Jewish people here. There are many Hindus and Muslims. The Hindus often decorate their houses for Diwali, their own festival of lights, so you can’t tell if the people who decorate in November are just really early or celebrating Diwali.

      • philosophermouseofthehedge November 29, 2012 at 1:45 pm #

        Yeah we have a lot of that here, too now…and the religious holidays from Mexico ( and there are multiple ones before Christmas)

  4. kelloggs77 November 29, 2012 at 11:54 am #

    I busted out laughing at the 11 boxes of Christmas decorations. Somehow every year my husband forgets just how many decorations we have and acts surprised by how many boxes we have. I don’t mind putting them up, but I do always think about how much I hate putting them away. As a kid there was a nearby house that left its Christams tree up in the front window pretty much all year. We used to make fun of them…but now I kind of understand.

    • jmlindy422 November 29, 2012 at 1:31 pm #

      I didn’t guess at the number of bins. I actually crawled into the crawl space and counted. I have considered leaving the tree assembled and putting it down in the basement covered with a sheet. Another of those things I had heard of, through was crazy and now completely understand. Glad to make you laugh!

  5. todadwithlove November 29, 2012 at 4:21 pm #

    Wow, you’ve just given me an amazing insight into the Jewish culture and particularly into Hanukkah. And you’re right: the multiracial, multicultural quality of your family life is simply awesome.

    • jmlindy422 November 29, 2012 at 5:05 pm #

      Well, there are plenty of Jewish people who do Hanukkah completely differently. We are by no means a typical Jewish family, but thanks!

  6. nevercontrary November 29, 2012 at 7:42 pm #

    Ok, so Jewish question. The school I changed to has a large jewish population, so the kids talk about it a lot. They told me Jewish kids don’t get santa because santa is for christmas. I thought about it and is santa really christmas or just holiday really?
    Do all Jewish people not do santa?
    I hope that isn’t rude to ask.

    • jmlindy422 November 29, 2012 at 8:45 pm #

      Not at all rude to ask. Most Jewish people think of Santa as Christmas. I know, though, that there are Jews who “do” Christmas in the sense that they have Santa. MOST of the Jews I know, though, do not partake of anything Christmas, including Santa. My husband and his family treated it like any other day of the year; they usually went to the movie theater on Christmas day. No lines! The Jewish kids I know who are really Jewish (we’re just kind of Jewish…that’s probably rude, but I think you get the point) get presents at Hanukkah. My kids don’t, but I do give them something called “gelt” which is milk chocolate candy wrapped in gold foil and stamped with a Hebrew letter or something else like that. They come in a little net bag and they make them for non-Jews, too. If you see them, check the “made in” label; they might be from Israel and that would mean they are kosher!

  7. n nicholson November 30, 2012 at 7:23 am #

    Love the “driveway menorah” – really, very “Martha” (as in Stewart)

    • jmlindy422 November 30, 2012 at 7:53 am #

      Thanks, Nancy! Almost time to buy those candles!

  8. Dinnerversions December 1, 2012 at 1:44 pm #

    Hi there! Haven’t been online much this past month so I’m catching up. We celebrate Jewish and Christian holidays in our house too and I love this post so much! I can completely relate. I love the idea of the driveway luminarias. We decided to make Hanukah/Hanukkah/ Chanukah (etc!!!) about books to lessen the wide-green-eyed-I-get-toys-every-night-for-8-nights hysteria that makes me nauseated!


  1. And the Award for Favorite Blog Goes To… | Are You Finished Yet? - December 7, 2012

    […] like her. But then she goes and says stuff that just makes sense sometimes. Or makes me laugh about Christmas decorations. Or gets me thinking all philosophically…and stuff. It’s like a good mixed […]

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