Growing up, we gave up our Sundays for Hebrew school. We prepared for our Bat/Bar Mitzvah’s under the watchful eye of a strict Rabbi and shrieked every time we were invited to a bris. It always seemed like the other kids were always having more fun and come November we felt it even more. With homes in the neighborhood decorated in lights and life size reindeers on all the homes, it was disappointing when we came home to a Menorah…especially with the spectacular Christmas tree decorated by our friends next door. The envy became larger than life when the radio started playing the most beautiful Christmas carols by Nat King Cole and other soulful singers. I, like many other Jewish kids suffered from a serious case of, ” Holiday Resentment.”
For me, the feeling came to a halt when I was arranged to have a playdate with a new friend names Rebecca Stein. A new girl who moved to our school after traveling the world with her parents. Her mom offered to pick us up and take us to her home where we would prepare a gingerbread house..fun! As we walked into her fabulous home, I was astounded..There, in front of my eyes stood the tallest pine tree decorated with the most breathtaking ornaments. It was dressed with dazzling blue and white ribbons, grand Star of David ornaments, and the flag of Israel tall and proud on top of the tree. My eyes were glued, why didn’t we think of that before? Why don’t the have on of these at the mall? Why didn’t my mom tell me such a thing existed? My astonishment was interrupted by Rebecca asking with a smile, “Do you like our Hanukkah Bush?”….What on earth is a Hanukkah Bush? but smiled and told her it was absolutely beautiful and it looked very similar to the one we had..lied. I was dropped off at home and had to have a word with my mom. The discussion came to an end when my mom angrily asked me to stop the request for a, “Hanukkah tree”..I never corrected her. She said it’s not, “What we do”. “We have dreidels” she said..salt on the wound. So every year, I went on admiring the liberal moms who let their kids celebrate hanukkah with a dash of Christmas influence.
I never thought about it again until a week ago. I was presented with, “Mommy, can we get a Hanukkah Bush?”. Now, do we stick with tradition or do we have room for tweaking? I found myself in an odd position.
Especially because I had pinky promised myself that I would let my kids have one when I became a mommy. I’m not sure where I lost the determination but I found myself leaning toward the preservation of tradition. So my job became to sell Hanukkah as best as I could. I, like all the other Jewish moms in the same position emphasized the fact that we get 8 gifts vs. 1 and tried to make the dreidel game as entertaining as possible with chocolate coins and all. At the end, they seemed pleased, It may be that they are less wishful than I was as a kid which I appreciate. So today, as we listen to George Michael and his story of last Christmas in my car, I reflect on mine and can’t help but smile. We may not have the best songs or malls decorated in honor of our holiday but we have a lot to be thankful for. Even though a part of me still wants to go out and get a small tree, I realize that tradition won and to me..along with chocolate coins, I think it’s a beautiful thing. Next challenge, Easter.