November 15, 2010

The Hanukkah Grinch

by

My Role Model
photo credit: Chuck “Caveman” Coker

Hanukkah, or is that Hanukah or Chanukkah or Chanukah or Hannukkah or …. Whatever, I’ll write it C/hanu(k)kah and now everyone is happy, ok?  OK.  So now to the grinch.

In just about two weeks, C/hanu(k)kah will begin. The menorahs (or is that menorot? help a Jew out!) will be taken out and lined up. We have 3 hanukkiah that we use, although we have more. And we’ll put up a few decorations. I have some widow clings and a few banners and such. But I don’t go all out. You’re not going to see the Jewish version of the Osborne Lights around these parts any time soon.

For the past few years, BabyGirl has wanted to put up a giant blow up menorah or dreidel in our yard. A few neighbors put out decorations and lights as well as those blow up Christmas things you buy at Costco. Yes, “blow up Christmas things” is their technical name otherwise I wouldn’t be using it.

So we don’t do much decorating, much to the annoyance of BabyGirl. And I don’t go all out when it comes to gifts. On this, I claim Hanukkah purism. Hanukah is not a major Jewish holiday. It’s merely a festival that has morphed into a Jewish version of the secular gift-giving Christmas bonanza. Chanukkah celebrates the miracle of light that coincides with the rededication of the Second Temple.

Hanukkah is an important Jewish celebration. It never was and is not intended to be a gift giving holiday. Growing up, for my family, it was more a celebration of family and friends and the food. I would get small gifts, but nothing significant. Not like my friends who’d get the latest and greatest gadgets or clothing. My grandparents would usually get me one significant gift, usually a piece of jewelry that belonged to my my grandmother or one of my great-grandmothers. My mom usually got me clothes. Definitely something practical.

I never minded. And I never felt like I needed more. It was always so much fun just to make latkes and play dreidel and spend time being a family since my mom worked evenings for several years.

We’d always celebrate Hanukkah in our way. And then on Christmas we would go over to a family friend’s house and celebrate with them. That’s when I’d get gifts more like what my friends would get for Christmas.

Now I’m the mom. I’m the one who needs to share the Jewish tradition with BabyGirl and I’m totally torn between being a good Jew and being happy-fun mom. Somewhere in between is Jewish Grinch Mom and that’s where I feel I’m stuck. I’m the Hanukkah Grinch.

I’m totally into lighting the menorah and playing dreidel and singing the songs and eating the yummy latkes and jelly donuts. I love the ritual aspects of Hanukkah. I’m not so much into the crazy gift giving. And I’m really not buying into the idea of putting up an 8-ft blow up menorah in my front yard.

CycleGuy and I never went all out on the gift giving. And I never felt like I needed to. And up until about 2 years ago, BabyGirl just knew Chanukkah as we had celebrated. Then it all changed and BabyGirl started talking about wanting all kinds of decorations so that our house could be like those in our neighborhood. That’s when Jewish Grinch Mom comes out. I don’t want to put up lights and blow up things in the yard. I think it’s cool, sure. For someone else besides me.

Am I really a grinch? I love Hanukkah. I just don’t want it to become ‘Jewish Christmas’.

Sara

{ 14 comments }

Kate @ Songs Kate Sang November 15, 2010 at 8:40 am

Sara, I love learning about you and your faith! Thank you so much for being so very open with us! Hey, if being called a grinch makes our children a little more thankful and a little less ‘entitled’, then grinch it is!

Sara November 15, 2010 at 11:42 pm

Kate, thank you for your lovely comment and letting me know you enjoy reading about my experiences as a Jewish person.

Sheva November 15, 2010 at 5:49 pm

Hi i just found your blog and i want to add my two cents. I also agree the idea of gifts on Chanukah is so commercialized and a feeble attempt at making it like another nearby non-Jewish holiday. But the Menorah is another story. Part of the Mitzvah of Chanukah is to publicize the Miracle that happened. This is why we should light the Menorah in a window facing a street. I think the giant blow up Menorah is fun and a grand way to say “Hey a miracle happened on this day”!!! but im a biased gal because i drive around with a rooftop Menorah on my car.

Sara November 15, 2010 at 11:45 pm

Sheva, I would probably be more inclined to put a menorah on my car than one in my front yard. Although it would have to be a small-ish one because I drive a Mini Cooper. Thank you for chiming in and sharing your insight, especially as a frum sistah!

Sheva November 17, 2010 at 6:28 pm
Jessica Gottlieb November 15, 2010 at 9:19 pm

It’s Jewish XMas. It’s a bummer, but that’s the reality.

Buy the crapola like the rest of us.

Jessica Rosenberg November 15, 2010 at 10:59 pm

There are so many issues battling with each other here and I truly feel your pain!

First there’s the fact that for generations Jews have felt compelled to avoid broadcasting their faith (for good reason!) so putting out huge Hannukah displays goes against the grain. (Not to mention how tacky those blow up thingies are. Ugh) But as Sheva said, it is a mitzvah to share the story and the history behind the holiday. I find that lighting the hannukiot in a place where neighbors can spot them is a nice way to share.

Your daughter is old enough for you to explain to her why you’re not comfortable turning Hannukah into a big dog and pony show. She’s also old enough for you two to brainstorm how to make it an special event that’s meaningful to you both.

Because we celebrate Hannukah at home and Christmas at my sister’s I didn’t want to turn the whole month of December into a smorgasbord of plastic and batteries. Instead on Hannukah we light candles together, sing a bunch of songs, then the girls open one wrapped present – a book. Then we all cuddle under a blanket and read together. Hannukah =s books for us, Christmas =s presents. And no we don’t decorate the house beyond snowflakes in the windows.

And now, having hijacked your comments, I say “Say no to the crapola.” Hannukah is OUR holiday and we don’t have to have it be dictated by the rest of the hoopla!

Sara November 16, 2010 at 12:00 am

Jessica, hijack my comments any time! I appreciate your sharing how your family celebrates both holidays. You’re right that my daughter is old enough to understand and be part of making the holiday meaningful for her too. Because her birthday falls around the same time as Hanukkah we’ve always focused gifts toward that and leave Chanukah for ritual celebrations and family. We’ll be visiting Bubbe this year so I’ll let her do the gifting. That’s what Bubbe’s are for, right? 😉

Thank you, again, for helping me to keep OUR holiday in check.

Grace {formerly gracie} November 16, 2010 at 12:52 am

I’m a Catholic rejecting the hoopla, so I feel your pain… indirectly 🙂 I love getting gifts for my kids and making this a special time for them. It’s everything else that bothers me.

My family has always been about the bigger meaning of the holidays. Growing up, we had gifts and Santa and my dad lite the Oh Holy Night out of our front yard, but even then… the focus was always on being together as a family, Mass, music, FOOD, and friends. Over the years, it’s become even less about the gifts and more about spending time together. For me love = time.

Then, I married into a family that is all about the STUFF. My in-laws live for the huge Christmas’ with seven hours of present opening, twenty tons of wrapping paper, etc. It’s insane. Not only can we not afford that, but I resent having to buy random things for people who barely speak to us and have made zero effort to be part of our lives… Just because…

And, frankly I don’t want my children growing up equating love with STUFF.

So now, I’m the Grinch limiting the gifts. (Jesus got three. You get three). And the cheapskate only buying for the kids. It’s hard to make a stand and I still haven’t learned how to absolve myself of the guilt, but I find there’s so much more room in my heart to really cherish this holiday season when focus on what matters to us.

Happy C/hanu(k)kah, Sara!

Sara November 16, 2010 at 1:40 am

Grace, thank you for chiming in with your perspective with regard to Christmas. I love your rule: Jesus got three. You get three. That’s fabulous! And I don’t think it’s being a cheapskate only buying for the kids. Gifts for grown ups can be very expensive if they are going to be something they’d want or would buy for themselves. Very few people really want a $5 flashlight from Walmart – no matter how cool it is.

rhonda November 16, 2010 at 4:09 am

Thanks for the giggles this morning, dear sister. I love how you explained this and no matter what, you are doing what’s right. Love you!

shifra November 16, 2010 at 6:12 am

we never did decorations when I was a kid, but now we do a few. no blue up lawn stuff here, though. you are definitely not a grinch!!!

watching the chanukah lights burn was wonderful as a kid and helps us appreciate them and the light they bring on the longest nights of the year. it is also my daughter’s birthday month so we definitely celebrate.

Kelly@Childhood November 16, 2010 at 8:57 am

“C/hanu(k)kah”

Best part of the post…

You’re my favorite Jewish Grinch Mom Ever. For reals.

Honey November 18, 2010 at 12:48 am

I have to second Kelly that I loved the “C/hanu(k)kah” part too. You always have such a way with words. I love learning more about your faith.

We are struggling with the over gifting too. Our kids end up with so much “stuff” that they don’t enjoy. I love the idea that Grace suggested about Jesus getting three so they each get three. Still, that is 15 gifts and that is just for my kids from us. And we do the stockings, just because.

I have this love hate thing going on with the sacred and the secular inter mingling and I have not been able to reconcile, so for now, Christmas is what it is. We do the tree, we do the stockings, we do the traditional turkey dinner, and we do the lights.

We are doing a low key Christmas this year which the kids will probably freak about, but hey, play with your toys and clean your room and I might reconsider more gifts next year.

I love the dialog on your post. It was awesome reading through all the comments.

Blessings
Honey

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