Current Affairs MIDDLE AGE MUSINGS recent-post2  >  Rejoicing in Our Differences – Celebrating the Holiday Season

Rejoicing in Our Differences – Celebrating the Holiday Season

Rejoicing in Our Differences – Celebrating the Holiday Season
Print pagePDF pageEmail page


Oh the weather outside is frightful. Not really but you know it will be soon!

In spite of that, I do love this time of year. There’s such a great energy in the air. I love the hustle and bustle of shoppers filling the streets, the beautiful Christmas decorations (my personal favorites are the small white lights on the trees) and the delicious smell of cookies baking in people’s homes. And everyone always seems to be in a better mood…even in New York City! I really look forward to the Christmas season.

Which is kind of ironic on some level.

I grew up as one of only 10 Jewish families in my hometown in Central PA and this time of year for me as a child was so different. While my friends were home decorating their beautiful Christmas trees, my parents were dusting off our Hanukkah menorah and setting it on the kitchen counter, making sure we had enough candles to last for the 8 nights of Hanukkah.

I secretly always wanted to have a Christmas tree that would fill our house with that amazing pine scent, where I imagined my presents with big bows would be scattered around the bottom of the tree. As a result, I always felt a bit envious of my friends who used to tell me how they would get up early on Christmas morning to unwrap their presents. Even their stories of Midnight Mass intrigued me.

One of the fun activities that my friends and I did share during the holidays was the annual ‘deer naming contest’ in our hometown. I kid you not! There was a beautiful deer that was ‘housed’ near the Town Park, and each December, the town would hold a contest to see who could come up with the best name for the deer. If my memory serves me right, I believe the name ‘Bambi’ came in first 17 consecutive years in a row!

When I wasn’t busy coming up with clever deer names, I helped out (with my mom and siblings) in my dad’s clothing store, which stayed open late during the holiday season. I loved wrapping presents and socializing with my school friends who used to stop by to visit me. And many of my dad’s customers would bring homemade Christmas cookies to the store for us to enjoy! Even though we didn’t celebrate Christmas, we still felt included in the joy of the season during those years.

Back then, one of my family’s holiday traditions was to go to NYC for a weekend. You can imagine how exciting that was for me as a young child (and then teenager) to experience the sights and sounds of NYC during the holiday season, especially coming from my small quiet town. It’s no wonder that I finally decided to move here as an adult.

On one particular holiday trip to NYC, my parents surprised us with cans of Silly String during Hanukkah. Does anyone remember how fantastic those cans of Silly String were? I’ll tell you who didn’t think they were so fantastic. The housekeeping staff who had to clean our hotel room the next day.

Any guesses who didn’t go to NYC the following December?

On the years that we didn’t go to NYC, my mom used to wrap our Hanukkah presents – one for each night – and ‘hide’ them on top of a cabinet in the dining room. I use the term ‘hide’ loosely, as she always put the presents in the exact same spot each year! The first night was always the best present and by the 8th night, you learned how to adjust your expectations accordingly.

One year, my parents put clues all over the house like a scavenger hunt, and their last clue took us to their bedroom, where they had set up small cardboard Disney characters. Our big present that year was a trip to Disney World! As you can see by my scowl, I was entering my teen years, and the embarrassment of having matching jackets with my siblings didn’t help either!


Our family at Disney World

Fortunately, I outgrew those moods and my siblings and I decided it was best we not wear matching jackets in the future. I also eventually tossed out that shirt too. Wondering now why no one stopped me from wearing that ‘masterpiece’ in public!

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to really appreciate the deeper meaning of the holiday season. I truly feel blessed about the great family and friends that have come into my life, as well as my good health, all which cannot be replaced with tangible gifts or trips. While I love living in NYC, I still haven’t come around to buying a Christmas tree for my apartment. This year, I’ll be dusting off my small menorah again and lining up my boxes of candles, counting them first to make sure I have enough to last me all 8 nights of Hanukkah.


I might even treat myself to a can of Silly String too, just to relive the good old days! Anyone care to join me?

How will you be celebrating the holidays this year? Do you grow nostalgic for the days of yesteryear around this time? Are you home baking cookies right now? Share your stories (and cookies) with us and feel free to send a photo or two!

And most importantly, may your holidays be happy, festive and stress-free.

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...