Here is a picture of my baby sitting on Santa's lap. No joy, no tears, nothing. Unaffected. If this picture had accompanying dialogue it would be: "Mom? Aren't we Jewish?" Yep, babe, it's true. And as a result, I'm afraid all this holiday hoopla is not really meant for you.
Sadly, I've felt indifferent towards the holidays ever since I realized that Hanukah traditions were mainly something put into place to make the Jewish kids not feel totally screwed come Christmas time. Sure, when I was little, we took Hanukah very seriously. Choosing which of our eight gifts to open each night was a momumental thing. And for every digital clock pen or faceless wooden puppet (most disappointing gift receiving moment EVER), there was something awesome like an 1000-piece unicorn puzzle or a pair of Freezy Freakies.
But sometime in junior high school, the novelty of eight small separate gifts wore off and all I wanted was one big one. And then after college, the Hanukah family gatherings took on more of a grab bag approach. Until eventually the gifts and gatherings receded altogether (we're really more of a Thanksgiving family) and the holiday season was all about vacation days off from work.
But I live in New York City and am surrounded by other Jews who tend to celebrate the holidays the same way that I do (by staying the hell away from Macy's), so I've never really felt like I was missing out on anything.
Until this year.
This year, I don't just live in NYC, I have also built a second home in a town called Bloggerville. And in Bloggerville, not only do the large majority of people celebrate Christmas, but they do it with such genuine joy and motivation that I'm relegated to the sidewalks of their holiday bedecked houses, blinking my eyes and careening my neck, trying to get a look in.
Sure, I have made some attempts to be festive on Mommy Shorts with my gingerbread crack houses and my free holiday gifts found around the house. But summoning up a bunch of images on a computer and calling it "Christmas" can't compete with people actually decorating trees (with homemade ornaments!) and baking (multi-layered!) cakes and singing video Christmas carols and hanging heirlooom stockings and mailing wishlists to Santa in REAL LIFE.
To make matters worse, all this in-your-face online holiday cheer has made me notice just how much more absent the holidays have been for me than usual this year.
For starters, Hanukah came extra early. It began right before Mazzy's first birthday party and it came to a close just as we all got hit with a horrible stomach bug. And I worked late nights throughout. So we never lit the candles. Not even once. This year, my Hanukah made one big "pfffft" before landing in a heap on the floor and then getting swept underneath the carpet entirely.
Traditionally, at the very least, I would be subjected to work related holiday festivities. In addition to the vacation days, there's the Christmas tree in the office lobby, the department organized "Secret Santa", the annual office holiday party, and the fact that you'll find the majority of NYC Christmas decorations in Midtown Manhattan, where my office has always been located. But this year, for the first time since I got out of college, I dont have a full-time job and I'm not working over the holidays.
If it wasn't for the Santa photo-op at the Bowery Babes holiday party (where the above picture was taken), I might have bypassed the holidays altogether.
Which, as a Jew from New York, would have been just fine.
But then again, there's this damn house I've built for myself in Bloggerville where everyone hands out candy canes and shouts "Merry Christmas!" when you pass them on the street. For the first time in my life, the fact that I don't have a strand of multi-colored lights along my rain gutter or a glowing reindeer on the roof or a doorbell that chimes "Oh Holy Night" is making me feel a little left out.
So, what's a Jew to do?
Amanda Peet was on Letterman last night and she said that for Christmas, her family will be celebrating a belated Hanukah. That sounds like an awesome idea. Who says we can't dig out the menorah and light the whole damn thing at once on Christmas Eve? If we add that to Chinese food on Christmas Day, as is the Jewish custom, I might feel some genuine holiday spirit. And maybe we can pepper next week with a drive into the suburbs to see some extreme holiday decorations and take a subway up to the New York Botanical Gardens to check out the holiday train show. We can even take a detour to the Second Ave Deli to stuff our faces with latkes. And then brave the bitter cold while standing on line for the Christmas windows at Lord & Taylor's. We'll cap off the week with a little Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (Netfilx!) while we sip hot chocolate by the— crap, we don't have a fireplace.
My point is, maybe just because we missed Hanukah and we don't celebrate Christmas, doesn't mean we have to skip the holidays entirely. I know I'm never gonna have a tree or go caroling or lose an arm in a battle for the latest and greatest holiday toy, BUT— having a baby means the opportunity to set new family traditions.
I'm thinking we haven't totally blown the holidays just yet.
And a big thanks to my neighbors in Bloggerville for spreading the holiday spirit over to the new house without a Christmas tree in the window.
Ilana is a NYC based working mom, read more from her on Mommy Shorts.