Lately, I have felt like you can take the girl out of Christmas but you can’t take Christmas out of the girl. As a woman who was raised by folks who celebrated Christmas it feels weird for me to not celebrate Christmas now. It’s a battle I fight every year especially now that I have kids.
I found myself recently thinking about that epic line in Sex and The City when Charlotte, after converting to Judaism, gets in a fight with her husband, Harry, and screams at him “I gave up Jesus for you!” And like Charlotte, while I might have given up Jesus at the time of my conversion, I certainly never stopped to think about having to give up Santa too. Not that I would have chosen to do any differently mind you, but now that I have kids, this Santa thing trips me up every single year.
You guys who have stayed with me for the past several years have read about my “December Dilemma” before. I have not held back my struggles with regard to that darn mantel elf and his shenanigans. This year I haven’t been seeing so many elf shenanigans on Facebook (I think he got trumped by Dinosaurs in November) so perhaps that has made me feel less sorry for myself that I didn’t have a seasonal guilt trip tool to enforce my parental wishes. But I will honestly tell you that it takes everything in my power not to not say “Santa’s watching, you know”…which I honestly might have let slip out of my mouth one or two times.
But let’s not forget to take into consideration how creepy the whole concept of Santa watching could potentially be to small children. A friend of mine had me considering hearing the lyrics to “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” read as spoken word in the voice of Dracula. “He knows vhen you’re avake…ah…ha…ha”
But truth be told, I love Christmas and I miss it. I found myself in Raley’s a few weeks ago, it wasn’t even December, when Christmas music started playing. Instead of doing my usual, “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe they are playing this and it isn’t even December!!” I found myself fighting back the tears as I foraged through the produce section. I literally was overcome with this intense urge to start balling. I bet it wouldn’t have been the first time a mother broke down in the grocery store, but it would have been weird for sure. I finished my shopping and got out of there as quickly as I could.
I love the smell of Christmas trees and those darn little baby Charlie Brown trees get to me every time I see them. I want to buy one so bad. I feel sorry for them and I want to give them a home. We have not ever had a Christmas tree in our home together but for some reason this year I did buy a tiny blue (duh…for Hanukkah) tree that served as a decoration for a holiday party I was throwing for friends. I felt that it wasn’t too Christmassy and my husband wouldn’t be too upset if he knew it was for a party.
When he came home and saw the blue tree, I cringed as he asked, “Where did you get that blue tree?” As I answered I feared that he was going to be angry with me; “Target. It’s for my holiday party” I replied. He then surprised me with, “Oh, can I borrow it when you’re done? I need something for the office”. Phew! He wasn’t mad.
I have been battling against questions and comments from my fierce little three-year-old practically every day this month, “Why don’t we have a Christmas tree Momma?” “Can we please put lights on our house?” etc., etc. The irony is that this kid, putting up the most resistance to our “We don’t celebrate Christmas” shtick, is the only kid attending a Jewish school.
I feel like in my attempts to navigate through my discomfort in abandoning my childhood holiday, has led me to do some sneaking of Christmas throughout the years. I think this year I might have taken it too far, cause besides the blue tree…
I sent out our holiday cards with gingerbread house stamps on them. I honestly wasn’t even thinking this would be a problem. I mean, I didn’t buy the nativity scene ones; that would be clearly a no-no. I just thought, “These aren’t too Christmassy. And the majority of people receiving them celebrate Christmas so no big deal, right?” Wrong…husband was not happy that we sent holiday cards to our Jewish friends and family with gingerbread houses on them. Sorry if I offended anyone who got one. I clearly wasn’t thinking how that would look. After he brought it up to me, in my defense, I Googled the origin of gingerbread houses and sent it to him. Think Hansel and Gretel.
I then picked up a seasonal doormat and chose the one that to me looked like snow falling on pine trees. Brent said they are Christmas trees. To me it looked like a snow scene. Darn it. Should I have gotten the one with a robin perched on a holly branch? Hmmm. The snowflake seems pretty non-denominational. Good thing I have the receipt.
Disclaimer: I know this a gold-plated, first world, not-really-a-problem problem to many people, but I have felt intense sadness this holiday season. It’s been hard for me to talk about because I am judging myself for feeling this way while thinking about so many people who don’t have anything and how lucky I am and how much I should be grateful for (which I am). I am not fishing for anyone to feel sorry for me because there is absolutely no reason to. What is it that I’m feeling then?
I am sad because Christmas gets me nostalgic. I miss my family, and I long for the recreation of some of those feelings I had as a kid. So much so that I long to recreate them with my children. Some of my fondest memories were of Christmases spent with my family of origin. A family now split between several states and countries.
It’s interesting to be in the minority when for so long I’ve been a part of the majority holiday-wise. And although Hanukkah is a lovely holiday, ask any Jew, it just isn’t the most important one to us. No matter how you slice it, we can’t compete with Christmas. Case in point, a big shout out to the Jewish kids a month later when we got to sing the Dreidel song at the holiday assembly yesterday. Christmas songs 10, Jewish song 1 (My kids freakin’ loved it though. And my kid’s teacher is a rock star for asking my kid to come up and sing it with her as she led the school as they sang it).
Despite my internal struggle, which I have attempted to paint a picture of for you, I still feel like my kids are getting the best of both worlds. I continue to expose them to a variety of cultures and traditions besides our own and I hope they will appreciate that one day.
I am eternally grateful for our friends that invite us to attend their celebrations. We attended the most awesome gingerbread house making party ever and I just felt so much gratitude to the mom who threw it. Not only because of her hard work and the fact that she graciously allowed my over zealous kiddos to leave with two-dozen cookies, but she didn’t even realize how hard of a time I was having missing Christmas this year. Because of her, I got a taste.
My kids sat on Santa’s lap at another party and I loved watching my skeptic 7-year-old, pretend to believe in this guy with the hope that maybe dude will drop a bag of gifts her way.
I know we are going to keep making our own traditions as I pave the way through my discomfort. What I want to impart on my kids isn’t the lights or the trees or the chocolate coins or the candles. I want them to embrace the spirit of December and the importance of giving rather than getting. We purchased new toys to donate to COTS, we are passing on clothes and used toys to those in need, and we are still collecting coats for an annual coat drive. My kids know how fortunate we really are.
My kids probably won’t ever really understand how I feel and how I struggled to be away from my family another year during Christmas. And as much I may miss Santa Claus, let’s just be honest, he’s got nothing on Nana Claus.