(Photo of Smashed fried plantains topped with Cuban-style pot roast make a perfect Hanukkah appetizer. by Faith Kramer)
Hanukkah starts tonight. Christmas is two weeks away. Nothing about our holidays will be the same this year. No big dinners, no parties, not even a cozy coffee with a friend. No shopping, no baking and dropping off cookies. Decorating seems a bit futile. What will you say in your holiday cards – “Still alive hope you are the same.”?
As hard as it is, let’s be grateful that it is only a one time deal. In decades to come, how will we say we spent this holiday season? Glum, weepy, feeling sorry for ourselves? No, we’re going to make the best of it.
Hanukkah and Christmas will not overlap this year. For some folks that’s great. Making two distinct holidays is right for them. For others one big bash of the two holidays overlapping is more fun. Some folks “run away” during December to Hawaii or Tahoe, but not this year. Some folks will observe one holiday, some two, some next to none.
What if I asked you, “Which is better – one? Both?”
I hope you’d reply that there is not a correct reply, that each family/couple must determine for themselves what is best.
Talk to your partner. This is up to the two of you. This isn’t something to enlist the children to one side or the other. Be the adults and TELL your children what you’re doing and why, but don’t debate them. Whatever you decide is right for your family, commit to it as a couple.
One non-Jewish woman who is known for her blow-out Hanukkah parties contacted me to say that she is terribly blue about not being able to host a big crowd. For the first time in her marriage to a Jewish husband she thinks she wants a Christmas tree. But she feels uncomfortable. Is it OK? Will she be betraying someone?
I suggested that she consider these questions:
What exactly do you want? The tree only? More than that?
Do you want it for this year to replace the party that you can’t have? Do you think you want to re-start Christmas observance?
Who are you worried about “seeing” the tree? Your grown child? Your neighbors? Your rabbi? Would you be seeing them face to face and able to say what your feelings are if you felt you wanted them to understand?
Can you do it as an experiment to see if it will ease the Covid sadness?
Think about where you would put it and feel comfortable. It is possible to put it up and then ask yourself, how does this feel? The only way to know is to try it.
Do you feel like you don’t want to do it after this year and you’re afraid of slipping into a big change?
I have to go along with Socrates on this one, “The unexamined life is not worth living”. Get to the root of your feelings.
I also suggested that, “Maybe you need a quiet, homey experience with just you and your husband – a private Christmas – since you simply cannot have the usual big production you usually throw.”
Ask yourself if you or your spouse is having longings that should be expressed and examined. Look, you can always decide to make no changes, but it’s worth knowing how you feel and figuring out why. It is also OK to experiment with this year. In the case of my friend, who raised her children as Jews without a Christmas tree, her kids are now out of the house. Your children may still be home and that will impact your decision. But even your children will survive doing something different this year. Even if that something is simply sitting home watching movies and eating popcorn. Remind them and yourself that this year really is different; this year it is ALL an experiment.
Make Something Different!
Now what about changing things up a bit? Here are some ideas for those who want new flavors for their latkes or would prefer fried dough to fried potatoes.