The most wonderful time of the year…
It may be, but it’s also one of the most complicated.
When I sent my kids to Jewish Day School, I expected the annual conversation about why we don’t celebrate Xmas, but somehow I expected the impact to be lighter than it was as the only Jewish kid in my elementary school classes.
“Mama,” Naomi said to me the other day, “Our house looks haunted compared to all our neighbors with their pretty lights.”
“Haunted?” I said. “Well, certainly a little darker. But think about how much fun we’re having inside the house.” B snickered, most likely thinking about the bickering that had been going on all morning and then my own tirade about how messy everything was, including the fence out front that desperately needed to be replaced. Our neighbors told us it had been there for as long as they lived there and that was at least thirty years.
So I pulled out the box of Chanuka decorations we drag out every year, as well as some felt, glitter and glue and we commenced to get all crafty with ourselves and create some new decorations to up our Chanuka bling factor…
“We should give them to the neighbors,” Tali decided.
“But they don’t celebrate Chanuka,” Naomi said. Shouldn’t we be giving them tree and candy cane cookies?”
“Why wouldn’t they like these cookies?” I asked them. They shrugged, but didn’t look like they were buying my reasoning that why wouldn’t their neighbors like the same silver sparkles that were exciting to them.
In the middle of wrapping up the cookies with cellophane and ribbon, I looked up and saw that B had demolished much of the fence we’d been talking about earlier. Suddenly, we could see the entire front yard and street from the kitchen. The light in the house looked totally different. There was definitely more light in the house, even during the dark Seattle days. Sure, the flower beds were totally torn up in the process and we’d have to wait until spring to do anything about it, but light is a really good thing in December in Seattle.
The girls and I took the cookie packages to our neighbors and at each house we stopped at, we stopped and visited. The girls were asked about Chanuka and we also got to learn about some Swedish traditions. At each house, the girls got more and more excited.
“Why don’t we do this more often?” and “Did you see how excited they were to get dreidel cookies?” Even though Chanuka has nothing to do with Xmas besides the time of year, it felt good to share the holidays with the neighbors. It felt good to feel more a part of our neighborhood community. And in the darkest days of the year, who doesn’t need a little community?
So we decided to make our cookie deliveries an annual event. And later that evening when we lit our Chanukiyot, we noticed something else. Where we previously only saw that fence, now the reflection of our candles in the window flickered along with the holiday lights across the street. Tali saw it first and ran outside to the front.
“Hey! Now you can see our Chanukiyot from the street!”
We walked out to front yard to see our five Chanukiyot in the window, cheerfully lit and visible to everyone.
“We have decorations,” Naomi said proudly. “No more haunted house.”