Finding a Home Where the Hanukkah Candles Outnumber the Christmas Trees
As a Jewish kid surrounded by Christmas cheer, an Afterschool Special inadvertently showed me that I didn’t have to try to fit in
Every year, after my husband and children light Hanukkah candles, I watch them burn a bit, then stroll down the streets of our neighborhood, my children in tow. The kids and I admire a menorah—at least one—through the front window of nearly every home. We wave at our neighbors through panes of glass, their faces glowing in the flames. We shiver in the night air.
Inevitably, we come to the house at the end of the block, the one—the only one—decorated for Christmas. Noting the fully decorated tree through the bay window, one of my sons will often declare, “Trees do not belong inside houses.” My girls point at the twinkling strings of lights hanging from the edge of the roof. “Pretty,” they say, but then my youngest will ask, “Why is there a toy man on the roof?”
Occasionally, I find myself defending my neighbor’s holiday decorations. “Hashem gave us the Torah,” I remind my children. “Why should we expect our non-Jewish neighbors to follow something that doesn’t belong to them?” Or I ask them, “Would you want our neighbors to tell us to put away our menorah?” But I wonder how the neighbors feel, surrounded by all our menorahs during Hanukkah, all our booths at Sukkot, all the deliveries of treats at Purim. Pressured? Annoyed? Or simply outnumbered, the way I once felt.
My husband and I chose our Jewish neighborhood in order to be close to synagogues and day schools. Being surrounded by Jews allows my children to grow up without feeling like outsiders or freaks. They don’t hum “White Christmas” or know the names of all of Santa’s reindeer because they’ve been spared the Holiday Season Fiasco.
But after all these years, I’m grateful that at one time, I was the one who was different. The discomfort it caused forced me to make a choice: be Jewish or blend in. If my neighbor’s Christmas tree reminds me of that, I’m glad to have it in the neighborhood.
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