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Seasonal musings

12/02/2021 03:58:36 PM


Aileen Grossberg

It’s that time of year again- the holiday season. This time of year has always been fraught with tension for many Jewish families as the carols sing out and the lights twinkle.

As a child, I would gaze at the festive trees in the windows of the houses as I walked home from Hebrew School after a day in public school where music class might have been a period of Christmas carols  ( we Jewish kids NEVER sang the name of Jesus), we listened to a passage from the Bible, and made Christmas decorations. In fact, when my parents moved from the big family home and divested themselves of the accumulation of many years, there were the Santas and construction paper wreaths made in elementary school.

We have come a long way: Merry Christmas has given way to Happy Holidays; the ubiquitous Christmas trees have been joined by hanukkiyot; matzah is not showing up so much in the Hanukkah food display.

When my own daughters were little, I was the latke mom in school. Today there are lots of latke moms and all holidays-or none- are part of the school day.

But despite a more inclusive environment,  Hanukkah is still perceived by many as the Jewish Christmas especially as modern American Jewry has adopted the customs of decorations and elaborate gift giving.

This year especially, there has been a whole brouhaha over some of the Hanukkah paraphernalia- the clothing, the household accessories, the decorations. In fact products have been pulled from the shelves of large stores such as Bed, bath and Beyond because of inappropriateness and mixed messages.

Should a Hanukkah pillow ask “why is this night different?”  Are there no fact checkers?

My elder daughter worked for a large homegoods retailer as a package designer. More than once she caught errors on products meant for Hanukkah or Passover.  I became her go to person and together we put the letters on the dreidel in the proper order and corrected Hebrew spelling among other things.

Back in the day, Hanukkah was treated as the relatively minor holiday that it is. Gifts were usually modest. My parents would give us one nice thing, and frankly I don’t remember getting more than one gift.  But those special gifts truly were special.

One year it was Wanda the Walking doll. Did I love her! She stood about 18 inches high in her faux patent leather shoes. Her coarse blond hair cascaded to her shoulders. She wore a stylish red patent belt and she walked with an arthritic gait. She was beautiful.

Wanda is still with me. One shoe is missing; her blond hair is more like straw or something a bird would make a nest with. Her gait is is almost like mine.  But one look at Wanda and I am transported back to family.

The best thing about a holiday, at least from an adult perspective , is gathering as a family as we did last weekend for Thanksgiving and then for the first candle lighting. Yes, these gettogethers can bring family mishegas to the fore but they also provide laughs and tears and models for the next generation.

Here are some books about family gatherings to help you realize that families are all alike in some ways.

FIC        Cohen              The Netanyahus

YAFIC                            Colbert Little and Lion

FIC       Englander

FIC       Gad                  The Color of Love

BIO       Lerner              The Bridge Ladies

JFIC      Littman             Confessions of a Closet Catholic

FIC       Meyerson         The Imperfects

FIC       Price                 The Hotel Neversink

E          Raschka            The Blue Table

JFIC      Rosenberg        This is Just a Test

JFIC      Taylor               All of a Kind Family

Thu, October 6 2022 11 Tishrei 5783