A Guilt Free Holiday Season

My grandmother (z”l) hated the December holidays.  They filled her with so much angst that I think she actually got a little depressed.

So many Jews share her feelings at this time of year.  Questions arise like:  Do we decorate?  Do we give presents to the barber, house cleaner, office mates, etc?  We don’t want the kids to feel left out, should we have a Christmas tree?

Let me ask you some questions.  When you go to someone else’s black tie wedding, do you dress in a beautiful gown or a wedding dress?   If you decorate your home for a friend’s baby shower, must you also be pregnant?  If you go to someone else’s birthday party, do you expect to take home all the cards and gifts?

This is how I look at Christmas.  It is not my holiday, but I can still enjoy and share in the festivities.  Let’s face it, the beautiful lights, the joyful mood, the feeling surrounding Christmas are all wonderful.  But I know I’m a guest at this holiday – not the host or the recipient.

At the same time I don’t need to disguise Chanukah with blue and white trim, twinkle lights, and Latke Larry to have it compete.  Chanukah has its own beauty: the story of rededication, of using our minds to triumph over might, and of real heroes.  It’s a holiday rich with traditions, fattening foods, and messages of morality.

Here’s the essential difference, how do you celebrate them?  If you, your spouse, your children, your neighbors see you expending time and energy on Christmas, e.g., decorating, shopping, and going to multiple parties and then see you make latkes for dinner one night and call that Chanukah – what message are you sending?  Chanukah lasts for 8 nights – will you go to 8 Chanukah parties or 8 Christmas parties?

Many of our friends invite us at every turn to join in the celebration of Christmas.  Let’s invite them to celebrate Chanukah this year.  Make Chanukah come alive in your home – and Sukkot and Tu B’Shevat and Pesach and Yom HaAtzmaut and Shavuot and Shabbat!  If we as a community, household-by-household, create memories and celebrations around our own festivals – and invite our friends to join in – we will be able to approach these holiday seasons guilt free!

Please join me on Tuesday mornings in December (5th, 12th, and 19th) from 10:30am – 12:00 noon as we explore how Christmas and Chanukah became the holidays we know today, and how we might be able to reinvent and reimagine them for ourselves.

Chag Urim Sameach.