While I am off freezing in the mountains with my family (okay, slightly exaggerated: they need snow and we basked on the sunny deck in T-shirts on Sunday – while the only sign of snow at our cabin was in the areas the sun couldn’t reach), I asked a few of my favorite bloggers to write guest posts.
Some begging may or may not have been involved.
Today’s guest wanted to make sure I knew what I was getting into when I requested a post on holiday traditions.
You see, she’s Jewish. And I’m…. well, not Jewish.
I discovered Ilana at Mommyshorts over a year ago and I’ve been laughing ever since. We bonded over self-imposed sleep deprivation (I seriously have no idea how she accomplishes all she does).
She possesses a psychic ability to find soon-to-be viral adorable baby videos (which I then bookmark to show to Lil Diva), creates graphs and pie charts that leave my creative abilities in the dust, and founded mybabylookslike.com where proud parents can submit photos of their children and their celebrity counterparts.
She is the one who told me my daughter could channel Chucky and insisted Lil Diva enter her Baby Glare Off Contest.
Or other times when she just can’t be funny because…well… she’s human.
They just make you love her more.
Today Ilana tells us the secret behind Jewish holidays, teaches us some Yiddish (sweet!), and remembers her childhood traditions – just in time to bring them back for her two year old.
Creating Traditions from Scratch
When Kelly asked me to write about my holiday traditions, I hesitated. Ummm… what if I don’t really have any holiday traditions?
I’m Jewish and I’m reform (reform being the least hardcore of the Jews), and I’m a bad reform Jew at that. And even if I was a very religious Jew, Hanukah is just not that major of a holiday. I celebrate Passover by drinking wine but not eating bread and I celebrate Rosh Hashanah by dipping challah in honey and I end every Yom Kippur fast with a big bagel. (It just occurred to me that every Jewish holiday is basically the celebration or denial of carbs.)
But I barely ever go to temple and I haven’t traded Hanukah gifts since I was about sixteen.
The biggest thing I do that signifies my Judaism during the holiday season is not having a Christmas tree. Or stockings or strands of little lights or wreaths or candles in the window. Well, except a menorah. If I remember to take it out. Which I didn’t last year.
But now that Mazzy is old enough to know what a present is— a very important milestone, I’m beginning to remember what a big deal Hanukah was to me as a kid. For one, I was CONVINCED that eight presents in eight days was just as good as an all at once present blowout on Christmas morning. Kudos to my mom for getting me to buy into that load of schtuss (bullshit in Yiddush).
I also thought latkes (carbs in the form of potato pancakes), gelt (chocolate coins) and dreidel (an excellent drinking game for the college set) were the recipe for an excellent party. And the thought that went into which present to open on which day was a science that I excelled at it. (You don’t want to get all your good gifts first and bigger isn’t always better so choosing can be tricky.)
But the holiday season meant way more for me than just Hanukah.
My mom used to take us on a road trip to see the best Christmas lights every year. This was a much bigger ordeal than you might think because we lived in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood. There had to be sustenance and gas station bathroom breaks.
Also. Every year, my mom made us stand in the freezing cold on the lines for the Christmas windows at Saks, Lord & Taylor and Macy’s. All in one evening, one after the other. And the ride home would always consist of a thorough window critique to determine which store’s were the best.
On Christmas Eve, we would go to my Aunt & Uncle’s for dinner (my aunt is Catholic so there was a tree) and eat what I considered the finest side dish on earth— sweet potatoes in half a carved out orange peel with melted marshmallows on top. I’d have about five.
And on Christmas Day we would do what every other Jew in New York does, eat at a Chinese restaurant and see a movie.
So I suppose I should be thankful to Kelly for asking me to write this post because it turns out I have quite a few holiday traditions— they’ve just sat dormant for a while. And now that I have a family of my own, with a kid who is almost old enough to care, I am excited to share them with her.
I’ll start with a single gift on December 21st. And seven more for each day of Hanukah after that.
If all goes well, she’ll never know she’s missing out because she doesn’t celebrate Christmas.
Just like me.
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Ilana – We did the Chinese for dinner two years ago for Christmas when a slow cooker cooked a bit too slow.
Chinese food sounds really good right now. I wonder if they’re open on Christmas Eve…
Thank you so much for guest posting.