Many years ago Christmas fell on a Saturday. My family was invited to the annual Christmas party of some friends and the party was on Friday night, AKA Christmas Eve. My husband and I typically took our kids to Erev Shabbat services. They were under ten and a short service worked well for them. But this Friday we went to Len and his husband’s party. Len was raised Catholic, but fell away from the church when he came out. Still Christmas was the BIG event of the year for him and he decorated their house from top to bottom. Len even made a RED and a GREEN punch, both loaded with booze. There were lots of his nieces and nephews, presents piled very high under a magnificent tree. Every yummy treat you can think of. After the party we drove home. As we pulled up to our house my daughter, age eight, piped up.
“Hey, it’s Shabbat! Why didn’t we go to services?!” she demanded. I was quite surprised. We’d had a wonderful time after all.
“We can go to services next week. Tonight was Len’s party,” I explained.
“We should have gone to temple,” she grumbled.
Well, who knew?
I loved Len’s parties. They were like stepping into a movie! But my daughter had her own ideas. Yes, I was actually pleased that she would choose Shabbat over cookies, lights and presents. Surprised! But pleased.
Christmas won’t destroy your child’s Jewish identity. But you do have to give them something else to value. Being Jewish shouldn’t just be about what we DON’T do; it has to include what we DO do. There are many wonderful aspects to being Jewish. Hanukkah is nice, but it’s not my favorite holiday. Luckily there’s a Jewish holiday just about every month so you have many to pick from and to make much of.
Hanukkah at home or at shul
A number of synagogues invite members to come to Erev Shabbat services and bring their menorah. Then they hold a massive candle lighting. It’s quite spectacular. Etz Chayim in Palo Alto calls theirs Flametacular.
Obviously we can’t do that this year. Next year we’ll be in community; this year we are all relying on the home practice of Hanukkah. I hope yours are going well. If you need a boost why not make these easier-than-breathing suffganiyot (Israeli doughnuts) and watch a funny movie?
Also, light every menorah you own tonight. Take a picture and send it to me! firstname.lastname@example.org