Christmas Envy?

Christmas Envy?

How sweet to click on my new favorite parenting blog, Huffington Post’s Parents, and see that today’s lead article is entitled “4 Ways to Make Your Child’s Chanukah Special” by Betsy Brown Braun.

“Isn’t that incredibly nice?” I thought. Chanukah in the spotlight for a change instead of Christmas trees and Santas and socks dangling over a fireplace…

But the article really wasn’t so sweet after all. In fact, it was downright tragic.

This article describes how Christmas is, of course, the most awesome holiday in the universe, followed by suggestions on how we JewishMOMs can console our poor, miserable, suffering kidlings through our own whopper of a lam-o festival whose name nobody can even figure out how to spell.

Here’s two suggestions from Brown-Braun’s about how to help ourselves and our deprived children to overcome Christmas envy:

“Honor your child’s feelings. Take this opportunity to walk your child through her/his feelings of disappointment. Life is filled with times when we can’t “have it all”. Understanding that and giving your child the opportunity to reflect those feelings and help him develop coping skills is a gift. It will teach a tolerance for disappointment which is a critical, life-long lesson.

“Play reindeer games. Help your child to learn that you can love and appreciate something without bringing it into your home. You can go to a Christmas tree lot and play hide and seek, as you smell the fragrant trees. You can get yourselves invited to a friend’s house to trim their tree. You can count the number of wreaths you see on front doors. You can pile in the car in your pj’s and search for Christmas lights all over the city.”

Isn’t this, like, the saddest thing you’ve ever read?

And I know it’s true. I also had Christmas envy as a kid. Every year I would go to my best friend Jen Donelan’s house before Christmas to dress her Christmas tree with her and her mom and to drink egg nog and to look longingly at the big wrapped presents waiting for her underneath her tree. Now THAT was a holiday, I thought…Not like boring old Chanukah/Hanukah/Channuka/Hannuka….whatever.

And now that I’m religious? Chanukah, oh Chanukah! The light of Chanukah fills the universe for weeks beforehand. The anticipation, the excitement, the week plus a day of family togetherness in the glow of the Chanukah candles. One of my favorite, favorite holidays of the year.

Thank you Hashem for opening my eyes to perceive the holy light of Chanukah rather than the pulsing neon glow of red and green.

JewishMOM, what’s your and your kids’ favorite part of Chanukah?
Photo courtesy of Flickr.com user Sean Hobson

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13 comments

  1. I always loved lighting the candles and singing with my family. I was never jealous of the Christian kids. Come on, their holiday is one night and ours is eight! And it’s just one of the many wonderful holidays we have throughout the year. That’s without counting the Shabbat feast we have EVERY WEEK which rivals anyone’s Christmas feast; family, friends, songs, good food…

    If your children are disappointed, it’s a sign that you need to either strengthen your own connection to the Jewish holidays, make aliyah or both!

  2. Sigh. I remember Anne Roiphe’s piece in the N Y Times “Christmas Comes to a Jewish Home” rocking my parents’ boat like nothing had since the Yom Kippur War.

    We were lucky to grow up in a neighbor where most of our non-Jewish neighbors were Catholic, so we understood Christmas to be a religious holiday, which is much less threatening than when it is just the “American” thing to do and if you don’t do it you are less American or something. If there was anything we were jealous of it wasn’t the tree or the gifts, it was the singing. They had so many beautiful carols and hymns. Our family loved to sing and somehow on Chanuka, although we did do fun things together which I am sure helped give us strong positive feelings for the holiday, there wasn’t much to sing.

    I guess coming to love the heritage which is truly ours counts as a chanuka miracle!

  3. I had Xmas envy, for sure. I was the only Jewish kid in my elementary school classes, and hated to be singled out as different (I wanted the floor to drop open underneath me when my 6th grade teacher asked me to tell the class about the holiday of Hanukkah).

    My best friend was Catholic, and I’d always go to her house to enjoy holiday cookies, sing carols door-to-door, and yes – go to Mass with her family a few times. Dear G-d. They by no means tried to convert me — they were as interested in their daughter having a Hanukkah experience too.

    I was so confused. And I didn’t even come from intermarried parents! B”H things have changed immensely since then; my children have no idea what a carol is, have never tasted an Xmas cookie, and don’t give a hoot about Santa or anything else Xmas. The Xmas envy only manifests in non-frum kids, I believe, because the frum kids know better than ‘that’.

    • I don;t so much that frum kids “know better than that” or that they actually HAVE better than that. Rather than an apologetic approach, frum parents gift their children with an incredible culture in their own right.

    • I have to giggle about your kids not knowing what a carol is: my mothers name is Carole Singer!!! We always got some good laughs and strange looks when she’d pay for something with her credit card during the holiday season…. They thought it was a phony card!!

  4. I did not have xmas envy, but I still loved the feel of the season I guess. I love the moralistic movies, the lights, the festive happy attitude. Thank G-D I made aliyah. Here I get to enjoy it all, all about Hanukkah. I bake cookies with my kids in Hanukkah shapes, we make levvivot or latkes in different flavors I can decorate my house with lights inside from all the hanukkiot the children bring home year after year, as well as the decorations they make at school, without being judged that it is like xmas, we don’t buy presents for the kids instead we learn torah and play sivivon (drediel)and any presents they get are from the extended family. Sometimes we get something we need, like new house slippers or school supplies and remind ourselves having our needs met is a gift itself by picking them out for each other as a “present”. Happy Hanukkah and I am sooo grateful that when a picture of Santa came up online as I was on the computer my 7 year old asked “why is he in his pajamas”. I don’t know honey it must be a commercial for comfortable Pj’s G-d Bless the children who grow up without comparing themselves to non-Jews

  5. I never even knew “xmas envy” existed until I read about it here! There are lights and trees everywhere here (and where I grew up) and my kids just say, “Look Mommy and the pretty lights”, they never ask about at all. They also LOVE Chanukah – their school makes a big thing out of it too. This year they’re having an edible Menorah contest – which class can make the most creative edible menorah.

    They’re also home this year for a lot of Chanukah which is something I never got. They’re home because half their teachers aren’t Jewish and so they have Xmas and New Years weeks off. We had school through all that, growing up.

    We decorate our home with Chanukah gel thingies, we wrap and give presents on every night, make cookies together and sing songs — they feel so bad for the people that don’t have Chanukah in their life!

  6. Wow, now I’m even more motivated to make Chanuka fun and meaningful for my kids! Growing up frum in America I didn’t have much contact with non-Jews, and just enjoyed the lights and decorations from the side. My last year before making aliyah all the holidays were celelbrated with decorations, etc., in my workplace, and I suddenly found myself getting xmas presents for the first time in my life, from Jews and non-Jews, even though people knew I was frum. That just completely turned me off and I have no nostalgia for the department store windows, etc. as a result.
    Grateful to be in Israel, with kids who love Chanuka. I think the best part is the chanukiot and other crafts they come home with, and living a national holiday.

  7. I hope that you can respond to Ms. Brown-Braun’s pitiful
    Suggestions and \or link her here.

  8. I have a very different memory of Xmas: my uncle never married but had a secret non-Jewish love for a decade before he passed away from cancer and all was revealed by his deathbed. The lady never married, but cared for her elderly mother as a lonely spinster for the next several decades until she too passed away.
    All my x-mas days were spent with these two lonely ladies who had noone in the world except for my father who took them under his wing of selfless chesed: we were their “Christmas spirit” breezing into their home, four lively bouncing children and a rowdy family that they never had the chance to enjoy…
    Xmas for me, in retrospect, was actually basking in the glow of my parents incredible kindness towards these women. It never seeped into our home, what remained was the taste of my parents incredible light unto others: the true glow of Channuka.
    As an epilogue: my father was the one who was by her side when she passed away, decades later after he visited her faithfully in a nursing home, every week, for years. She stood by his dying brother, and he never left her side, either.
    That was Xmas.

    • Wow, YL! A beautiful, different twist on December 25th. (For me, it’s always been my grandmother’s birthday which, along with extended family, has been celebrated with her since I was 9. I’ve only missed two of the past 30+ years of these gatherings, B”H.)

  9. I never had Xmas envy, mainly b/c I adopted the popular secular view of it, as a time when goyish families get together to fight, drink too much, and wait in long lines to buy their children overpriced toys. But it did bother me that our house was the “dark house” during the “holiday season” because one little chanukia couldn’t compete with the thousands of lights our suburban neighbors draped all over their front lawns (how typically American that the backyards were completely neglected–it’s all about appearances), and because no one really knew anything about Chanuka, including most of the Jews…

  10. I did not appreciate those exerts at all. She sounds like a real self hating Jew with serious issues! I grew up in a mostly Christian society and of course I wanted Christmas lights and the smell of a tree but I was proud to be Jewish (because my mother instilled me with those values) and of course the eight days and eight gifts always won over everything. I think we should focus on the magic of chanuka and how special it is, and not steal Christmas as this article suggests. I decorate the house with chanuka decorations and build up the excitement and I hope my kids feel nothing more than curiosity for other holidays. Chag sameach!

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