Chris and I have been wrestling a bit with the whole holiday concept. My whole family seems to be calling me to check in on whether we have a tree(no)/lit a menorah (sorta), etc. as though Christmas were the litmus test for assimilation. As though assimilation were ever an issue before this year. Hello: was I not forced to attend an Anglican school with morning chapel?
I have been known to bristle at suggestions that I just adopt the holiday as my own, as though Christmas was all about surrendering to the infectious mirth and cheer: "well, it's hardly about Christ anymore, anyway...it's more pagan/consumer...".
On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have attended yuletide celbrations where parents of friends have worried that I will be offended we are not celebrating hanukkah (one actaully set up a menorah for me). Which is so so sweet and unnecessary.
I LOVE getting to share the Christmas celebration with people. I love presents and big meals and enforced, gorgeously awkward family get-togethers.
So the thing we are trying to figure is this: Why should I get all wiggy with the holidays now? Also, if you are making a 'home" together, does a Xmas tree negate Hanukkah? And am I forcing myself to celebrate a minor holiday because I fear the cultural melting pot? Am I reacting too strongly against a perceived cultural hedgemony?
What about if we had kids? Would having both holidays confuse them? I don't want to have a consumer-crazed gift fest, but I want to give something. I am already making way too big a deal out of it, and now I am going to ruin the whole holiday.... spinnnnnnnnny head.
The fact that neither of us is religious renders all of this fretting over religious significance even more absurd.
Christmas is easy, because everthing is thought out for you. From radio stations to streetlamps Every tinsel-adorned bough shouts out the importance of the holiday.You just need to sigh and freefall into the sofa, with a kid or a dog in your lap, plump stockings over the hearth, with Dylan Thomas' Child's Christmas in Wales playing on the radio, with turkey browning in the oven, with a fruitcake you can make fun of when you are not mocking less socially adept family members.
Whereas if you want to remember you are Jewish, you feel the perverse need to drown out the caroles for an evening or so. Spin the dreidle (that was never that much fun) and fry some latkes, just so you feel part of something. But it takes effort, and often feels like grasping.
The real effort, I guess, is the same with anything: inventing your own rituals, and investing this intense time of year with personal meaning. remembering to play with it, and not take it so darn seriously.