It’s that dizzying time of year. When everything MUST focus on the holidays. Even the ones you don’t celebrate. Like, Christmas. I realize that the majority of people in this country celebrate Christmas. But, my husband, Dan, and I are Jewish. So, we do not. Our four-year-old, Jacob, on the other hand, is seriously considering conversion. He feels woefully deprived. Not of gifts. (Read: Hannukah.) But of holiday bling. The lights. The tinsel. The sparkly “snow” on the limbs of a Christmas tree. The dazzle factor.
Jacob: Mommy, why don’t WE put lights on the Christmas trees in front of our house??
Me: Because those are just pine trees. Regular pine trees. Not Christmas trees.
Jacob: They’re Christmas trees, Mommy.
Me: Pine trees.
Jacob: CHRISTMAS TREES.
Okay, we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.
As far as Jacob is concerned, our house is SERIOUSLY under-decorated. The “Happy Hanukkah!” sign in the living room and sparkly dreidel decorations on the window are not cutting it. NOT CUTTING IT. Where are the lights?!? The ornaments? AND, FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT IS HOLLY JOLLY, WHERE IS THE TINSEL?!?
This year, it’s gonna really suck. Why? Because of a little phenomenon called Thanksgivikkah. In case you missed it, let me fill you in. This year is an anomaly. The first time in FOREVER, where the lunar and solar calendars happen to align such that Hanukkah began the day before Thanksgiving. In other words: crap-tastically early. Why is this a problem? Two reasons. First, it was hard to take advantage of Black Friday sales when our holiday was already in full swing by Black Friday. Second, Hanukkah will end a good, solid three weeks before Christmas. THREE WEEKS, PEOPLE. In the mind of my four-year-old that is an ETERNITY. (Or, as Jacob would say, “Like 100 days, Mommy!” Don’t argue the math with me. You get the point.) Which means that by the time Christmas rolls around and Jacob’s little friends are putting the last ornaments on their trees, peering into stockings and ripping open shiny red and green wrapping paper, the joy of Hanukkah will be a very distant memory for Jacob. If he remembers it at all. Way to make my kid feel even more deprived. THANK YOU, lunar calendar.
But, hey, Jacob is only four. Which means we still have some amount of control over what he’s exposed to. Right? So we’ll just downplay the whole Christmas thing, keep him occupied (until, say, January) and he’ll be fine. NO PROBLEM. Except that Christmas, or rather “CHRISTMAS!” is just about everywhere you turn. From Halloween to New Years. WE. CAN’T. AVOID IT. No one can.
Case in point. We took Jacob to a museum for the first time a few weeks ago. He met up with one of his little friends there. An adorable five-year-old girl. An aside, if you ever need some comic relief, set a four and five-year-old loose in an art museum. HILARIOUS. The first ten minutes were all, “OOOOH, that’s beautiful” and “I LOVE that one” as they stampeded through exhibits at a breakneck pace. Meanwhile the little girl’s mother and I took turns screeching things like “WALKING FEET!” “DON’T TOUCH THE ART!” and– more quietly– “It’s a body part. Let’s move on.” I think at least three docents almost had coronaries. But I digress. When we first walked into the museum, the lovely woman at the front desk took one look at Jacob and then had this conversation with me.
Museum Lady: In a few weeks, we’re having our annual holiday party. There will be a lot of activities for children. Crafts. Food.
Me: Is it a holiday party or a Christmas party? Because we don’t celebrate Christmas.
Museum Lady Who Apparently Has Selective Hearing: Yes! A Christmas party! With Santa Claus and lots of fun activities! Why don’t you take one of our invitations over there . . .?
Okay. I’m going to give her the benefit of the doubt. And assume she truly didn’t hear me say, “Because we don’t celebrate Christmas“. But, in the future, Museum Lady, please don’t utter the word “PARTY” in front of my kid unless: 1. You know I’m both available and interested or 2. YOU plan to be the one to deal with the half hour of whining when I explain to my son that we’re not going to a party that we were invited to. I’m not anti-Christmas. I’m truly not. I just don’t want to make things any more confusing for my kid. Especially while he’s still making sense of the holidays. And religion. And obsessed with tinsel.
Besides, you may not even want my son at your “holiday” party. Why? Because he knows. HE. KNOWS. Hey, Santa isn’t going to visit our house. So I outted him. No big deal. Though, in retrospect, I might have waited until Jacob had at least a rudimentary understanding of discretion. (He is four. He does not.) The other day, Jacob and I were in a store and he saw some Santa Claus decorations. And proclaimed (LOUDLY): “SANTA CLAUS IS JUST PRETEND!” I validated this. And then, in a panic, looked around to make sure he hadn’t just destroyed someone else’s childhood. (He had not.) But just imagine what Jacob would say if he saw “Santa” in the flesh? (Are your docents really up for that? I didn’t think so.)
For now I’ll try to convince Jacob that there is plenty for him to be excited about even as a non-tinsel-draping-non-tree-decorating-non-light-stringing member of society. After all, Judaism has many beautiful traditions. The apples dipped in honey on the New Year (Rosh Hashanah). The dancing flames of the brightly colored candles on Hanukkah. The masquerade balls on Purim. And then there is December 25th. A day when Jews across the country carry on the traditions upheld by their parents and their parents’ parents before them: ordering Chinese food and going to a movie. (BECAUSE NOTHING ELSE IS OPEN ON CHRISTMAS.)
Welcome to the tribe, my boy. You in the mood for the chicken with cashews or the moo shu vegetables?