Chanukah and that festive “Christmasy” feeling

How can we have a festive season?

This is a question that can come up if you are only celebrating Chanukah but one of you wants the “feel” of Christmas.
If you grew up celebrating Christmas you may feel that the excitement of a nationally shared holiday experience is lacking. There’s no way to get the other 98% of Americans to celebrate Chanukah but there may be ways to build some of the celebratory elements into your holiday practices.

First you need to identify exactly what you or your spouse is looking for in terms of “festivity.”

Make it concrete, consider your five senses. What are the things that a person can experience that makes this season “Christmas-y” and festive? Think very basic and generic so you can identity core elements.

Sight – is it the decorations, the lights?
Sound – is it the Christmas carols?
Smell – what odors are important?
Taste – Are there foods represent this season? Special drinks?
Touch – What should one “do”? Have friends over, go out caroling, play games?

Now consider which of these things already feel fine to do for both of you.

Drive around looking at the decorations and lights. Decorate your own home with lights – you can do blue and white and leave them up through the end of the year. You can do other colors if you both feel ok about them. If you are sticking with Jewish symbols go out and buy decorations, paper ones to hang around the house.
Go to a Christmas movie or to see the Nutcracker.

It is fine to listen to Christmas music; in fact you can’t avoid it for the next six weeks. On the radio, in the stores, that’s the music that’s playing. It is fine that you know all the words and sing along.

Does it feel like the house should smell of pine? Fine, get one of those scented air fresheners or a scented candle. Put on some apple cider to warm on the stove with a cinnamon stick in it.

Is it the season of cookies and pies? Great! Have a baking day. Share your bounty with friends, neighbors and homeless shelters. Need a big turkey dinner? So make one! (You can serve turkey for a Chanukah meal.) Wish you could have some eggnog? All the stores carry it. If you were visiting Italy you would go out and taste the local pasta, so go taste the local American holiday foods.

I think of this as the emotional touch. Want the festivity of having friends over? Then throw a party. It can be a latke party or you can have a few friends over for Shabbat and games. Or have a cookie exchange with some friends. Or a jam exchange. Go caroling to a senior center. Help serve Christmas dinner at a shelter or a church.

The goal here is to identify some very specific things that can be heard, eaten, experienced and to put then into your lives.