Written for bookishbelle’s 12 Days of Christmas project. Read submission.
Every year I go to Target and purchase candles for my Menorah, and a Christmas ornament to add to our tree. Every year the cashier gives me a strange look. It’s either a look of pity signifying that they feels bad that as a Jew I cannot share in the fun of Christmas, or a look of confusion, as if I’m “doing it wrong”. ‘Silly Jew, you can’t hang an ornament on a menorah’.
I do this every year 1. for amusement and 2. because I was raised in a multi-faith household. When I say multi-faith I mean we celebrated both Christmas and Chanukah/Hanukkah (or whatever 6 other spelling options you choose). Some of the only Hebrew I know is the blessing over the candles, but I couldn’t tell you what it means. We’re not the world’s best Jews. Just ask my Jewish Society and Culture professor and the C he gave me.
My family gave up on 8 days of presents a long time ago, my last one being what I have dubbed the Beanie Baby Chanukah, where Mom got me eight days of Beanie Babies. Sometimes my aunt gives me Chanukah socks, although those are going extinct.
People often ask me what we do to celebrate. We light candles for 8 days. We put up our Christmas tree (artificial of course). On Christmas Eve we go to my aunt’s house and exchange presents and eat Chinese food. ‘How stereotypical’ you must be thinking. You’d be wrong. We eat Chinese food not because we’re Jews, but because that’s my cousin’s birthday and it’s his favorite food. The Chinese restaurant appreciates it; there are only 3 Jewish families in town.
When I was younger I was way more pro-Chanukah because it made me different than the other students. Yes, I was one of those strange breeds who thought being different was cool. (It still is.) It gave me the right to complain that there was only one lame song during the winter chorus concert dealing with Judaism and it was the awful dreidel song. (What are you implying, that Jews are so cheap they refuse to buy a $0.25 dreidel?) If I was feeling especially feisty I would comment on the offensive use of Jesus in a number of the songs. Whatever happened to separation of church and state?
I was anti-Christmas. Decorations were put up too early. Christmas songs were annoying. It was an expensive support of consumerism. We encouraged children to sit on strangers. I was a teenager, railing against happiness was to be expected. I thought Chanukah was the way to go, despite the awful taste gelt left in my mouth.
Over the years I have learned to reconcile the separate holidays with one another. I can put up my Christmas tree with my fiancee and then make latkes. I can teach him the only Hebrew I know and we can- GASP- wrap our presents in non-denominational paper. I know, the blasphemy. I can safely say I am no longer a Chanukah elitist. I have dropped my cynicism against Christmas. I now firmly tout my belief in Chrismukkah.