It is hard to believe that 2013 is coming to an end. School is out and Winter Break is here. Before we know it, we will be welcoming 2014!
A few weeks ago, we got to experience a once-in-a-lifetime Jewish event: Thanksgivukkah. It was nice to be able to gather with family and friends and celebrate Chanukah and Thanksgiving together. I know that a lot of our kids got a kick out of the combination of holidays. It created a media frenzy. There was a great buzz out there – everyone knew about Thanksgivukkah.
But now, everything is Christmas. We are bombarded with Xmas trees, Santa and carols. Well intentioned folks wish us “Merry Christmas!” Some of us are getting a little “Grinchy”. Catch yourself before you start spouting Ebenezer Scrooge’s infamous words: “Bah Humbug!” We had our Thanksgivukkah fun. Those who embrace Christmas are allowed to celebrate. And remember, great Chinese food and movies await us next week.
In all seriousness, with Chanukah coming so early this year, I am noticing that this holiday season is particularly challenging for many of our kids. As Thanksgivukkah becomes a distant memory and the excitement of Christmas grows, there are many Jewish kids who have got a case of the “Bah Humbug Blues”. Recently, I was visiting with our preschoolers out on the playground. We have a wonderfully diverse group of preschoolers who come from Jewish families, inter-faith families and non-Jewish families. As I walked out onto the playground, I overheard one of our preschoolers telling some of his friends that Santa Claus is not real. I spoke to our preschoolers about this incident – explaining to them that there are many different holidays out there. We talked about Chanukah and how special it is to us. We agreed that we would not feel good if someone told us that the story of the Maccabees and the Menorah were not real or if our friends told us that playing dreidel and singing Chanukah songs was boring. We also talked about the fact that while some of us don’t believe in Santa Claus, it is okay for other kids to believe in him. We want to respect what our friends believe and celebrate – just like we want them to respect what we believe and celebrate. It is okay to be different.
For those of you with children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, I encourage you to check in with them over the next few days. See how they are feeling about the holiday season. Talk to them about what you as a family believe and practice in your own home at this time of year while stressing that some families do things differently. When it comes to Santa Claus, my own children never believed in him, but they believed in the Tooth Fairy (and I think they still do – so shhhhhh!). I explained to them that just like none of their friends had the right to tell them that the Tooth Fairy did not exist, they did not have the right to tell their friends that Santa did not exist. It worked!
Cheryl, Abigail, Jonah and I wish you all a Shabbat Shalom, a peaceful Winter Break and a Happy New Year!