December....tis the month of the holiday season and that holiday is Christmas. Sure there are other holidays, but the two shelves at Target or Bed, Bath & Beyond for Hanukkah or Kwanzaa does not compare to the store wide celebration of Christmas.
We are Jewish. We do not celebrate Christmas. We do not celebrate "secular" Christmas either. I am not sure when the second was created, but I do know we do not celebrate with a tree, lights, Santa, Elf on the Shelf or anything else that is a symbol of Christmas and that's a-o-k because we are Jewish. Jewish people are a minority in a predominantly Christian world. That's it. There is really no further explanation needed.
I would say we, but that would be inaccurate so I will say, I was nervous to send E1 to public school because of Christmas. Would she feel left out? Would she want a Christmas tree in our home? Would all the children discussing Santa upset her? Would she feel odd in music class that she does not know the lyrics to All I want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth? The answer to all these questions is No. E1 does not feel any of this. The anxiety was all in MY head and I am embarrassed to admit that I did not trust enough in my parenting or my child's ability to just roll with it. It has been an honor to watch E1's Jewish pride soar during this holiday season.
I had a meeting with her teacher before December began to discuss what Christmas in the school looked like - music, trees, lights, stockings, the elf, reindeer, gingerbread men, etc. I explained that it was all fine. We are not wanting to be the Jews that stole Christmas.
Each day E1 has come home and told me what her classroom Elf has done, how she has earned some candy in her stocking, and what her friends want from Santa. Today, E1 went to school and was able to share about her cousin's Bar-Mitzvah and about Hanukkah. E1 lit the menorah last night, chanted the prayers, and sang some songs. She begged for latkes. The children in her class will hear of this and learn. E1 is learning about other holiday traditions and teaching about her own. Isn't that the way it is supposed to be? Shouldn't we all educate each other?
E2, who presently attends a Jewish preschool, is the child crying at night asking for lights on our house and a tree inside. You know who is explaining the ins and outs to her? E1. Last night she said, "We are Jewish. We don't celebrate Christmas. It is pretty to look at it, but we don't do it. We have the menorah, latkes, our decorations, and presents. Stop crying. You're annoying." While the ending was not so sweet, it is typical of a big sister and I am more touched by her ability to understand and be proud of our religion.
This Friday for the Sabbath and Hanukkah we will celebrate "Shabbanukkah." I love this term my friend coined a few years ago. We will have 21 people in our home and we will light the Shabbat candles and the candles on the menorah. We will sing songs, open presents, and eat latkes. We will all smile, take 100 pictures, and enjoy the evening because we are Jewish.
My girls are not less Jewish because of public school. They are not less Jewish because the majority of people celebrate Christmas. We enjoy the lights on the homes and annually drive around looking at them while drinking hot chocolate. We love Christmas. We love the holiday season.
We love the spirit of giving. Giving tzedakah (charity) is a mitzvah (good deed), so the spirit of Christmas lives in all of us...even the Jews.
Happy holidays, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah. May this season of joy & giving bring health and happiness to all of us.