I am Jewish.
We have Hanukkah.
Hanukkah is not Christmas.
It tries to be, but it just isn’t.
When I was very young, we lived in a town which barely had a Jewish population at all. My parents didn’t want my sister and I to feel left out, so Santa would come to our house too. There was no tree, but I remember going to bed excited and waking up to presents by our fireplace.
We moved when I was seven to a town where, it seemed to me, almost everyone was Jewish. There was no more fake Christmas. We celebrated Hanukkah every year just like everyone else, with our eight days of presents.
Well, almost eight days. By the seventh or eighth night, we would be given practical gifts such as socks and underwear. I remember one year my sister actually threw the socks at my mother while screaming, “Who gives a kid socks for Hanukkah??” You did not mess with my sister and presents.
Hanukkah was what we celebrated, and I never felt as if I were missing anything…until ninth grade.
I was dating a Catholic boy who celebrated Christmas. He invited me to Christmas dinner. I was a very shy 14 year-old girl, so I was too nervous to spend a holiday I didn’t know much about with a family I had never met. I declined, but just hearing about his celebration made me think that Christmas must be wonderful, and maybe I was missing something.
Three years later, I found out what I was missing. During my senior year of high school, I went out with another Catholic boy (do we see a pattern here?) and our relationship lasted four years. I had come out of my shell a little more and I was lucky to spend four Christmas holidays with his family. His parents were divorced, so Christmas Eve was quiet with his mom and stepfather, but Christmas Day was a big party at his father’s house. We would get dressed up, eat amazing food, and celebrate with his giant family. There was a beautiful tree and decorations everywhere. The house just seemed to sparkle. So THIS was Christmas. I loved it and loved being a part of it.
Some things don’t last forever. When this relationship was over, so was my affair with Christmas.
I went on to marry a Jewish man, so it was back to Hanukkah. That may have been the end of my Christmas cheer, but my new sister-in-law’s birthday happened to be on Christmas Eve. When my husband and I were dating, and in the early years of our marriage, we would go out for a big family dinner in New York City to a restaurant which was always beautifully decorated for Christmas. Although it was officially a birthday dinner, we always felt that Christmas spirit. Christmas in New York is magical.
Sadly, my sister-in-law passed away a few years ago. Christmas has become a little more difficult, and is now more of a reflective time for our family and we still honor my beautiful sister-in-law’s memory.
My own daughters have never celebrated anything other than Hanukkah. They are almost adults now, but they still ask why we can’t have a Christmas tree. Sometimes I wish we had one.
I will always look at Christmas decorations, movies, and even commercials with a bit of longing. It is such a special time and I cannot help but think we are missing out on something.
At least we always have Hanukkah.
Stacy was a stay-at-home mom/part-time preschool teacher whose life was turned upside down in 2011 when her husband passed away suddenly of a heart attack. She is raising her two fabulous daughters, now ages 18 and 20, who are turning into wonderful young women. In 2016, she started a blog about her experience as a young widow, The Widow Wears Pink. This led her to write for other publications including Huffington Post, Today.com, Scary Mommy, Grown & Flown, Kveller, Modern Loss, Thought Catalog, and many more. In 2018 she started Living the Second Act with fellow writer Mimi Golub. Today, Stacy and her daughters are happily living their “new normal” while always keeping her husband’s spirit alive.