A Holiday Time to Breathe – by Cara Potapshyn Meyers
If my aging memory serves correct, I believe that Hanukkah and Christmas have overlapped for several years now. I could be off by a year somewhere. However since my son was perhaps four-years-old (5 years ago), I have been playing hopscotch trying to prepare and celebrate Hanukkah at the same time as putting up our “Holiday Tree” with decorations and gifts. I think it got to the point last year where I was so exhausted trying to focus on Hanukkah, that I ended up wrapping my son’s Christmas gifts at 2 am, technically Christmas Day, knowing full well that I would be getting a whopping 4 hours of sleep, at best, once my son woke up at his usual 6 am. Finally, this year, I have been given the opportunity to breathe!
Many people who celebrate Hanukkah aren’t too keen when the holiday falls early in December. They feel they don’t have enough time to “prepare.” Compared to Christmas? Preparing for Hanukkah is a walk in the park. Different families celebrate the holiday in a way that makes each family member feel comfortable. Whether it be one big gift the first day of Hanukkah and smaller gifts for the remaining days. Or a large gift at the end of Hanukkah. Or just small, meaningful gifts scattered throughout the eight days. Families decide among themselves what suits their lifestyle and their budget. There is also some flexibility or in other cases tradition, as to where the celebrations will be held and whether it will be with extended family, friends or simply the immediate family. Christmas, on the other hand, is more a kin to a New York Wedding, complete with pomp and circumstance.
Before our readers become alarmed at my description, I must admit that the Holiday Season is my favorite of all. Although not from a religious aspect, my memories of Christmas are magical! Between helping to decorate the tree, turning on it’s lights and then turning off the lights in the room so that I could scurry underneath the tree, lay on my back and enjoy the beautiful splendor of sparkling magic from within! It truly made my heart swell! We would decorate with my mother’s numerous handmade ornaments. Her handmade stocking that I still use to this day, adorns my mantel over the fireplace and has seen close to forty years of use. I have so many treasured memories of Christmas. The unfortunate part is that there is so much involved preparing for this time of year, doing it by myself has made it more a burden than an enjoyment.
We only celebrate Christmas as a festive day. But, yes, my son gets presents – eight, to match the number of gifts he gets for Hanukkah. We discuss nothing related to the religious meaning of Christmas, since he is being raised Jewish. He just insists on the tree, some special and memorable decorations, and of course, the gifts.
I was actually so proud of him when he came home from Religious School the other day, excited to retell the story of Hanukkah, as if he wrote it himself! It means that although the hype of Christmas most certainly trumps eight nights of lighting candles, he is still getting and retaining the religious aspect of Judaism that we have worked so hard to instill in him.
Truthfully, it is kind of a letdown once Hanukkah is over, when so many others are out scurrying to prepare for the “Big Show.” Because we celebrate both holidays, I am glad that my son has something to look forward to once Hanukkah has ended. I am most grateful that there is a little over a week to continue prepping for Christmas so that I can go to bed at a reasonable hour on Christmas Eve and recollect my own childhood memories of Christmas as I watch my son rip away wrapping paper while opening gifts Christmas Morn’!
This year I will be able to treasure BOTH holidays at a more leisurely pace! We spent the first night of Hanukkah having dinner with close friends and spent the second at a Hanukkah party of another. I feel joyous and celebratory knowing I still have time to wrap and decorate for another festive holiday which we will be spending with my best friend and her family!
Bless you, Hebrew calendar! I’m not sure what next year will bring, but you gave me a lovely reprieve to allow my son and I to celebrate both annual holidays just the way we want! Happy, joyful, and filled with love!
Happy Hanukkah to our Dreidel Loving Readers!