Unlike 98% of the people I know, I don’t celebrate Christmas. To this day people still act shocked when I say I don’t celebrate Christmas and never have. During my first year working on my ParaPsi degree, I stumbled upon Wicca. It turns out I’d been utilizing a lot of the minor nuances for most of my life, and have since adopted additional bits and bobs as a bit of a back-drop for me spiritually. Thank you Mom and your Kabbalistic teachings.
I grew up the daughter of someone who became über observant during the High Holidays, and downright neurotic during Passover. If it had been presented to me differently I wouldn’t have such an aversion to it now. I haven’t really observed the holidays over the last few years. It begins with losing both of my parents, moving into my house, and then realizing I can’t find a simple menorah, or the candlesticks that my Great-Grandmother brought with her when she emigrated from Lithuania. Technically they’re all in the house, but since more than half of it is still packed, pinpointing one or two items is exhausting. So for Chanukah, it comes down to simple gift-giving.
It’s nauseating to me how commercial the holidays have become. It’s always been over the top, but this year was definitely the worst in history, with stores opening up hours before Black Friday even became Friday. Instead of people enjoying time with family, they were waiting on line to get into stores, acting as if they’ve never seen such wonders in a store before. It’s all the exact same stuff that was there on Monday, and unless it’s a brand new item you’ve never seen before as many new things came out at exactly 12:01 a.m. that Friday, it’s the same crap they always have, but now they’ve tweaked the prices to make everything seem extra special. It’s not.
I can’t begin to say how many people have told me that they simply dread their credit card bills right now, because in a country with so much excess, people actually feel that they have to buy every single person they know, are friends with, like, etc., a gift of some sort. It’s no longer about family, laughter, sharing, it’s all about the gifts. I realize it’s been like this for quite some time, but it’s actually never been that way for me.
Growing up, Chanukah was never about who gave and/or received the most expensive gift. It was a time where my close immediate family got together for a nice meal, my Grandmother would make enough latkes for three professional hockey teams and their families, and discussions would range from current events to complete and utter wackiness. The sounds and smells of home. For me, that’s been gone for a long time and it’s a piece of me that has died because only two of those family members remain. It is a piece of me that will be reborn when I have children of my own and become the matriarch I was born to be. Until then, it’s about thoughtfulness. A gift does not have to be outrageous, but it does have to be thoughtful. I try to give things that people would not buy for themselves, things they love, things they’ve talked about wanting, but generally things they wouldn’t spend the money on because they’ve got so much else going on that the funds simply aren’t there. I love things I can make for others, but I like to start the DIY stuff in August. It’s not some insane competition when you’ve given yourself additional time to prepare. I have so few people on my list any way, but I still like to give myself that extra time just in case I’ve procrastinated at some point.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t talk about the insanity of holiday decorations. I’m from New York City where it’s a nice blend of menorahs and Christmas lights. I love driving through the city during this time of year because you simply do not see menorahs in the suburbs. I live on a street where approximately 30 homes are decked out for Christmas. It’s pretty quiet here, for all intents and purposes. On neighboring streets the displays are bigger, louder, and a few spots in particular are horrendous eye sores the second it gets dark, which is literally by 5:00 PM. I drove past one a week or so ago and thought I’d go blind from all the action. One spot in particular is decked out to the point where you almost expect Santa to land there via helicopter. There may have even been a heli-pad on the roof, I’m not 100% sure because I had to look away fast, lest I lose the vision in my right eye! I will try to get a photo to share with all of you. It’s that obnoxious.
Living outside major metropolitan areas, you don’t get the balance of the city. Here, you might find one or two items amidst all the Christmas decorations in a store. Specialty items for decorating aren’t hard to find on the Internet. I have absolutely no idea what I’d do with an 8 foot menorah on my front lawn, or a 12 foot dreidel, but I’d love to see my neighbor’s faces if I ever do decide to purchase one and put it out before Thanksgiving even starts!
Suburban life, you’ve got to love it!