It’s December and it is taking me awhile to warm up to the idea of the holidays. I really want to find the joy in this season but this year I am having a hard time. There are things I am looking forward to like a scattering of holiday parties and giving gifts to my children. But mostly, I’m looking forward to January.

So there it is, I am just not a fan of the holidays this year. I feel stressed about them. I don’t like trying to figure out what gifts to buy and the challenge of budgeting. I don’t like the barrage of ads, commercials, and emails from retailers trying to seduce me. But I am most uncomfortable with our decision to stay home from my families Christmas celebration. I want to stay home but it will be the first time in my 34 years of life that I will not be with my family for Christmas and I am a bit sad about it.

But bigger than my sadness about missing out on family, I’m just not sure how to explain to my kids that Santa just didn’t make it to our house. I am grappling with the question of whether or not we stick to our desire to keep our house a Hanukkah home or whether we allow Christmas gifts from my family to appear on the morning of the 25th. Ah, the gold-plated problems of an interfaith family.

Already, I have tried to leverage Santa to get my children to behave. As a struggling mother of three, I admittedly will try almost anything to get my children to behave when I want them to. Just the other day Olivia asked me if we had “one of those things that Santa uses to get in a house?” “A chimney?” I asked, “Yes, we have one of those”. She responded with, “Good, I better start being good then”. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that 1) You are supposed to be good all year round in order for Santa to come and 2) Santa might not come to our house because he only goes to Nana’s house. I just hope that if we decide not to allow my mom’s gifts to be here on the 25th that Olivia doesn’t think that her behavior was the cause of that because she really is a great kid.

A side question: My husband wonders if kids who live in newer homes with glass on their gas-burning fireplaces ever think about how Santa gets out of the fireplace with that glass there? But so far, Olivia hasn’t asked that one.

I have also been very tempted to buy one of those Christmas Elves, the one that sits on a shelf that everyone is talking about this year. I can’t escape them. Those darn elves are everywhere. They kind of make me annoyed and yet at the same time I am jealous of the power that friends are wielding through them.  I am envious of the stories I am hearing about children self-disciplining to prevent their Elf from flying home to the North Pole to tattle to Santa that they were bad.  But I just can’t buy one if we aren’t doing Christmas here now can I? I’ve been wracking my brain to think of a Jewish equivalent.

It was hard for me to not buy advent calendars too. But I knew better because I know my children just wouldn’t be able to understand the concept of one piece of chocolate a day (and by the way, if memory serves me right, that chocolate tasted weird anyway).

My simple goal by the end of December is to find the balance between participating in holiday gatherings, lights, trees, and gingerbread-house-making workshops and make Hanukkah stand out in our home as our special celebration. There are some great local Hanukkah centered events going on that I just read about that I may try to attend with the kids to help us in that endeavor.

Above all I just want to be happy this holiday season. I have so much to be grateful for and I know it: my husband, my children, my family, my new baby girl (who we have named!) coming so soon, etc., etc. I hope that I can find the joy in the little things and although I don’t have an elf, instead shelf the stuff that takes me away from enjoying this time of year.

Whether you have embraced the holidays and love them or are a little more like me right now, may the season have more moments than not that make you smile, even if that thought is of January.