Being Jewish during the Christmas season is like being a kid with your nose pressed up against the window of a candy store while all the other kids are inside eating candy. No matter how hard Jewish parents try to jazz up Hanukkah, eight candles can’t hold a candle to the sex appeal of corporate, commercial Christmas in America.

72-Christmas Eve_013

Every year, for two months (or more), everything you see and hear glamorizes the season of joy and giving. It’s all lights and glitter. Since Jesus was Jewish too, maybe we could come up with a holiday celebrating his Bar Mitzvah? Even Bar Mitzvahs are tame and dowdy compared to the hype and excess of Christmas.

Cowboy and Menorah

But then I married a gentile! I could finally — legitimately — participate in Christmas!

The first thing my daughter and I did — a week after my wedding, as soon and as the Thanksgiving dishes were put away — was buy a gigantic, live tree. Then we hit every Christmas tree store in the county. We bought enough ornaments to decorate the tree in Rockefeller Center! We made sure to buy several Dreidels, Jewish stars, and Chai ornaments to remind our tree it was also Jewish.

almost christmas

My husband suggested I might want to join a 12-step program for ornament addicts, but even he had to admit, the result was spectacular. Our sun room is round, with windows on three sides. At night, when the tree was lit, it reflected sparkling colored lights for 180 degrees. It was fairyland.

We kept the tree up until March that first year.

After several years of holiday decorating orgies, the novelty began to wear thin. The effort required to transform the house into (and out of) a winter wonderland felt unreasonable. Unnecessary.

christmas wrapping paper

I began to feel pressured and overwhelmed, like most of my Gentile friends. I decided to go back to my Jewish roots and leave the Christmas responsibilities to my Methodist husband. We now have a small, fake tree that comes up from the basement every year, fully decorated, for 6 weeks of daylight in the kitchen.

Ironically, Hanukkah, in its present incarnation, was also created by Madison Avenue to give Jewish kids their own schtick around Christmas, and to give Jewish adults something to spend money on during the “holiday” season.


These days, I happily light my Hanukkah candles and give, mostly small, gifts to my immediate family. I enjoy the festivities and fun of Christmas, but I’m at peace now with the simple, beautiful “Festival of Lights”.

Now that I’ve experienced how the other 90% live, I no longer covet my Christian neighbors’ holiday.


I know you think you are helping people by trying to get everyone to close on holidays, but it isn’t necessarily the right thing. It might be the right thing for you … but what about me? What about the people next door? Are they just like you? Same holidays? Same available choices? Same kind of family? Same religion?


When you promote a work ban on holidays, consider that many folks don’t have families. These are people who are grateful to be working. Moreover, there are many individuals and families who count on the extra money they can earn by working holidays.


Not everyone is equally enthusiastic or sentimental about traditional celebrations. There are plenty of people for whom Christmas,Thanksgiving, or Columbus Day are non-starters. They have their reasons and they are entitled to them.


Not everyone has someplace to go and a warm, fuzzy family to share with. It’s wonderful to be grateful for what we have. It’s also good to be mindful that not everyone is equally or similarly blessed … and not everyone celebrates the same holidays.


And. Even those who celebrate the same holidays do not necessarily celebrate them the same way you do or on the same dates.


Cee’s Odd Ball Photo Challenge:

2015 Week #13

What makes these oddball? These lovely pictures that look like Christmas?

They were taken on March 28th and March 29th. Not Christmas. Not even close. I sincerely hope that I don’t have the opportunity to take any more of these kinds of pictures until NEXT winter!!



In this case, I am celebrating my new booties! I know. I could celebrate new life, sunrises, etc. Something meaningful and deep.

But you see, life is different now than once it was. Gone are the days when Christmas brought piles of new goodies. We can no longer afford such extravagance, and even if we could, we don’t need piles of anything, except maybe money. Nor have we room for lots more stuff. Not even a small amount of stuff. When anything new comes in, something old needs to go out.

So there’s not much newness in our world. No new babies or puppies. The garden is dead until spring (hopefully) revives it. The earth is asleep in the northern hemisphere. So … let’s all admire my booties. They make me and my feet happy.

new boots booties uggs

My favorite “new thing” for 2015 are these cuties. They are quite the latest in booties. Designed with a narrower shank to look more streamlined, less klutzy. Your eyes do not deceive you. These are “dressy” Uggs! Comfortable, warm, water-resistant … and red.

Love those glittery bows!


Mystery Box – You wake up one morning to find a beautifully wrapped package next to your bed. Attached to it is a note: “Open me, if you dare.” What’s inside the mystery box? Do you open it?

Beware of boxes from the Hall of Records!

Beware of boxes from the Hall of Records!

If you look closely, under the wrapping paper and ribbons, you can see who sent it … or at least, whence it originated.

“Hall of Records,” says the label. I’ve been searching for this stuff  since I first had that dream, the one in which I am climbing an endless ladder in a very tall building until finally, I get to a steel door. Which is solidly locked. On which is a sign that says “Hall of Records.”

In all these years, I’ve never been able to go in there, never been able to see what kind of information the room contains. And now, here it is, next to my bed. The records. The lost memories. The suppressed memories. The experiences too painful to remember. All the buried stuff.

I look at the box, pick it up and give it a good shake. It’s heavy and solidly packed. No rattling, nothing loose inside. It must be crammed to its limits.

I’ve made my decision.

I carry it to the attic, pull down the creaky old stairs. Up to the attic I haul that heavy box, grunting with the strain of it. I have lived this long without knowing all the details of the worst days of my life. I think I can slide through the remaining years equally — and happily — in ignorance.

Now, I’m going to get some coffee. Mince pie anyone? Oh, and Merry Christmas!


A family plus one holiday tale

by Richard Paschall

72-Christmas Eve_013Kyle was coming home for Christmas. He was bringing with him his college roommate. The boys met during freshmen year and became fast friends. Somehow they maneuvered the dorm manager into assigning them to be roommates for sophomore year. There was no one on earth Kyle would rather spend time with than Michael.

So, he was glad Michael agreed to come to dinner on Christmas Eve. This was in exchange for Kyle agreeing to go to Michael’s parents’ house on Christmas day for dinner. Michael was going to make a big announcement to his parents and of course Kyle had to be there.

Kyle’s father had slipped into a den on the east side of the house. All of the family noise was a bit more than his reserved nature could take. Kyle’s sister, Mary, who was 8 years younger than Kyle, was louder than usual, and no matter how many times grandma told Mary to “quiet down,” things didn’t get quieter.

The threat of Christmas carols by Mary and Uncle Roy was enough to drive dad into the den. There, he immediately made haste to the bar where a glass of sherry seemed to be in order. Dad only drank a sherry on special occasions and this certainly was one of them.

It was dark now and the neighbors across the street had turned on their Christmas lights. Almost everyone on the block had a nice display so the street was well-lit. Kyle’s dad was drawn to the window to see the lights, look at the gentle snow flurries and enjoy a moment of peace. As he stood there sipping his sherry and waiting for Kyle to appear, he finally spotted his only son walking quickly down the street with another young man right behind. As they got to the walkway that led up to the house they stopped to exchange a few words. Then a sight took dad’s wondering eyes totally by surprise. Kyle kissed the other boy. It was not a short kiss, but long and passionate which they both seemed to enjoy.

Soon Kyle rang the doorbell just to announce their arrival before he put his key in the lock and opened the door. Off the entrance way on the left was a door to the den. Kyle’s father was standing in the doorway just staring at the two. Kyle’s mom came through a big archway on the right that led to the living room. Mary was close behind and eager to see her brother and his friend. Uncle Roy and grandma did not vacate their seats. They knew the rest would join them soon.

First Kyle walked over to his father and said, “Dad this is my room-mate, Michael.” The roommate held out his hand and the father shook it. “I am pleased to meet you, sir. Kyle says such wonderful things about the family.” Kyle’s dad just sort of nodded at that, while studying this stranger in his home. The silence was out of character for the head of the household and a bit of a surprise to everyone except Michael, and that is only because Michael did not know him.

Then Kyle introduced Michael to his mother and his “little brat sister” Mary. Michael held out his hand to each in turn but the little brat held out her hand instead as if he was supposed to take it and kiss it, so he did and she squealed and ran from the room. At that Kyle’s mom offered to introduce Michael to the others. Kyle’s father then announced to all, “We will join you in a moment.”

With a more serious tone, father said, “Kyle, would you step in here for a moment, please?” This was not a question but rather a command of the type Kyle knew was not good. As the father retreated into the room Kyle followed. Before turning around dad said, “Close the door.”

Kyle only took a few short steps in before his father turned around. He looked at him as if he had never seen him before. It was the strangest look Kyle had ever seen from his father. “Kyle, is there something you should be telling me?” the “official business” dad said in an odd businesslike tone. Kyle figured it was some sort of trick question but knew he should answer it anyway.

“No, dad. I don’t think so.” This clearly was the wrong answer. His dad did not say a thing but his body language spoke volumes and Kyle became as nervous as a first grader who has been caught stealing Oreos from the kitchen. Now the master of the den, the commander of the car keys and the payer of his tuition walked slowly to the window, looked around the outside and turned to Kyle.

“You know, son, that there is a great view of the neighborhood from this window. You can see all of the beautiful Christmas displays across the street. You can see a nice Christmas snow flurry. You can see everyone walking down the sidewalk and turning up the walkway toward the house.” At that Kyle’s father fixed his sights squarely on Kyle and said, “So now is there anything you should tell me?”

Kyle stood motionless as his dad threw a stare at him that went right through and hit the door behind. It took Kyle almost an entire minute before he realized what his father had seen from the window of the den. All the while, that whole long minute of time, Kyle’s father stood there waiting.

Kyle wanted to begin “I’m sorry dad…,” but nothing came out of his mouth. He was so nervous and so afraid of his father’s reaction that he could say nothing. It is not that he wanted to be silent, he just couldn’t speak. Fear of saying the wrong thing paralyzed his tongue for the moment. Finally Kyle’s father just nodded that same nod he gave Michael when he was introduced, walked around Kyle, opened the door and walked across the foyer to the living room.

Kyle was knocked off his spot when his mother’s voice came floating into the room. “Kyle, don’t be rude. Come join your guest.” Kyle shuffled across the hall and searched around the room for Michael. He did not look at anyone else as his eyes avoided everyone but Michael. At that moment, with a room full of family, he had no way of telling his mate that he needed a hug and he thought he might need to cry. After a little small talk by grandma and Uncle Roy, Kyle’s mom asked them all to go to the dining room. Christmas Eve dinner was ready.

“Michael, you sit right there next to Kyle and Kyle will sit next to me. I have this end of the table and Kyle’s father will carve things up at that end of the table. Uncle Roy will be there next to you and grandma and Mary will be on the other side.” At that the little brat sister ran around the table and dropped herself on the chair opposite Kyle. She looked at him with a smirk as if she knew his little secret and was going to blurt it out if he did not stop calling her a brat.

Everyone sat in silence until Kyle’s mother looked down the length of the table and said to her husband. “Sweetheart, will you say grace for us?” There was a long, awkward pause before he said, “No. Tonight Kyle will lead the prayer.” At that instant Kyle prayed that something, anything that made sense would come out of his mouth. All eyes were on him as he began, “Bless us, oh Lord…” The words that fell out of Kyle’s mouth were for blessing and thanksgiving, but in his heart he was praying for acceptance. That became the only gift he truly wanted for Christmas this year.