The Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Christmas

I can’t remember the last time Christmas and Chanukah fell in the same week. Typically, we get our holiday a wee bit earlier, and so, it’s sort of easy to gloss over Christmas because we are all still basking in the glow of latke, presents, and uhm, more presents.

But this year, Chanukah starts tomorrow and Christmas is on Sunday, and so, Jesus and Harry will collide in a celebration of egg nog and latke.

Don’t ask.

There’s been lots of talk this week about clue-ing in your child to the reality of Santa, or from Stephanie, whose little guy is at the age where you have to decide if you’re comfortable watching Christmas television specials even though you’re Jewish, to Ciaran’s Santa Protection Program, where she’s told her kids Santa is not real, but has forbidden them from repeating it.

I’ve taken that tack before – I’ve stolen Christmas and already told my son that Santa isn’t real. He’s kept that secret, but now I have the two-year-old to contend with. My approach this time? Don’t ask, don’t tell. If he’s not askin’ about lights, and Santa, and Rudolph, then I’m not telling.

I’ll just play the avoidance game a little while longer. My eldest hasn’t asked about Santa in two years, so I figure the topic won’t come up until they’re old enough to turn the TV onto Frosty themselves.

But this year, with the timing and all, I’m a tad worried. We’re going back to the place of the chocolate fountains in a few days where we’ll be attending a fancy country club Christmas party and where my non-observant father-in-law will be certain to wear a plaid jacket. There will be a big ‘ol tree, and even though half the community are bubbe and zadies, it only takes one goyshe grandpa to ruin my plan. Or the lady in the elevator the other day wishing us a “Merry Christmas!”

Right back ‘atcha.

I know it’s only a matter of time before they start asking again. Or, worse, whining. Until then, I’m going with don’t ask, don’t tell. I think in this case, at least, it’s better left unsaid.

 

Oy to the world

It’s a wonder of wonders and miracle of miracles that our Chanukah celebration was as festive as it was this evening. Why, you ask? Because while the aisles of four major retail outlets were decked out with enough Christmas gear to light the way on Elston from Diversey to North, there was nary a dreidel to be found along the Clybourn Corridor, Gold Coast or near the dreaded and deadly Fullerton intersection.

Just ask my mom, who scoured Walgreens, CVS and even Potash in the Gold Coast for just a little Chanukah trinket.

Nothing.

Just ask me who drove around for an hour to Dominick’s (filled with Santas and a serious light show), JoAnn fabrics (the saddest and most pathetic display of paper goods-only tchotchke I saw), and the Elston behemoth Target (hello, I hope that it was just picked over.)

I should have taken some photos of it all, but I think I was too depressed to even bother. I did tweet it out, and got some good suggestions from Bubbles Academy, Time Out Chicago Kids and Shure Products to try to salvage the spirit of Chanukah.

Perhaps I should not have waited until five hours before Chanukah started to try to find some decorations. Perhaps I should have gone to my Temple’s gift shop and scoured their Chanukah collection. But, somewhere between the last Jewish holiday (which I swear was just last month), and Thanksgiving (which I swear was just last week), this early Chanukah got left out of the planning.

But thanks to Trader Joe’s frozen latkes (I think I got the last four boxes last night) and some old mini dreidels I had left over from last year, we had another simple and wonderful holiday. Plus we got these in the mail from my inlaws right before we sat down to eat.

I put Hannukah Harry to shame.

I don’t think the kids suffered one bit.

Who needs tchotchke when you have Challah by Breadsmith, my grandmother’s old menorah and two new Tripp Trapp chairs courtesy of Stokke?

Happy Chanukah to all!

The sweetest thing

Somehow Labor Day collided with Rosh Hashanah (and Fashion Week), which is going to collide with a jillion events I have going on next week which will collide with Yom Kippur. Otherwise known as the biggest social night out all month. Not kidding, I’m going to Kol Nidre dinner with 4 other couples to Mon Ami Gabi. When it rains it freaking pours, I guess.

Which is why I’m heeding advice from my husband this new year to keep it simple. Simple meaning as long as I’m with my family and we’re enjoying ourselves together, that’s all that matters. It can get lost in the clutter of back-to-school, of holiday dinners, of weekend plans. This Erev Rosh Hashanah we decided to keep it as simple as can be with a family dinner of the four of us and my recently-transplanted-t0-Chicago mom. (Dad cannot afford to keep it simple and continues to work during the week in Michigan). We forwent services for a relaxing dinner at home. We lit the candles (I learned tons from friends on how to remove nasty candlewax from glass candlesticks) and ate challah until our bellies were bloated. I let my eldest stay up a little later to watch the candles almost burn out and didn’t mind that he tried none of the steak we grilled.

It was simple. I got to wear comfy clothes (ok, skinny cargos) and listen to the new Hebrew songs my son learned from his new school. When the wine was finished and the boys were asleep and the candles were waning and my mom left and we finished cleaning up (I never said keeping it simple didn’t involve a lot of regular chores), my husband and I sat on the couch and relished in our quiet and lovely evening. I will remember it forever. (Actually, I will be constantly reminded of it by the burn wax mark on my candlestick that I cannot seem to remove.)

It was a night to remember. I hope your New Year was as sweet as mine.