I don’t know if times have changed or if it’s part of living here in the north but, it seems to me that the gentile world just can’t win for trying when it comes to Chanukah.
Let me tell you what I mean. We are in the minority in my city. A very, very small minority. There is just a small handful of jewish families here. This community is far more divided along the lines of French and English. I’m estimating that roughly 98% of the people in my fair city assume that everybody celebrates Christmas. To not wish some one a Merry Christmas or to not ask them the ubiquitous question “So, got your shopping done yet – are you ready for the holiday?” is just plain rude. We, all of us, have learned to just smile and respond with a “Yeah, almost.” I remember watching the Artiste at the age of 5 trying to painstakingly explain to a Walmart employee that we have Chanukah instead of Christmas, we get dreydels and latkes and gelt and we light a menorah. The employee smiled blankly while I tried to send my son a telepathic message to just let it go. The employee finally patted his head and wished us a “Well then, Merry Christmas”. This brings me to the flip side of the coin, the Chanukah is not the big holiday that Christmas is side of the coin.
I think I have to go to the school to exemplify what I mean. My kids are in public school. In Canada there is a separation of church and state. This means that Christmas is celebrated but only in the warm fuzzy kind of way, without any sort of religious meaning. Now, I have no problem with this. I know what it means to be a minority and I absolutely do not begrudge my Christian neighbours whatever sort of celebration they chose to have. The only thing that I find ironic is that I have a greater problem separating Jesus from the holiday than many of my Christian friends do. So at school there are Christmas crafts and carol sings and some years there have been Christmas plays as well. The kids just get a little tired of it all but really no big deal, they have to learn to cope. I have always made arrangements that during the week of carol singing if my children or any other non-Christian kids should like to sit out the event that they are allowed to go to the library instead. Thank you very much to the teachers for being accommodating. The very kind teachers have always had me come into the class to present Chanukah to the children. I do the usual, show our chanukiahs, buy dreydels for all of the children, tell the story with my own spin on it – a heavy dosing of religious tolerance thrown in next to some gratitude for the wonderful country in which we live. Now this is the problem, my kids know that Chanukah is not one of the biggest holidays and they realize that it has been blown out of proportion because of its close proximity to Christmas. Sports Girl has never wanted me to come into her class for a holiday presentation. As she puts it, I’d rather you come in for Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur or Passover even, those are more important. But we’re not being asked about those holidays and really what are you supposed to do when people are just trying to be nice and to recognize and celebrate your differences?
Sports girl got burned. I called her teacher just before Remembrance day after my daughter mentioned to me that she made a Cross and a poppy to decorate the gym for the assembly. I kindly explained to the new teacher that I 100% believe in the importance of the day I would just prefer that my daughter make poppies and not crosses. I really did not want to put her in an awkward position but I also knew that Christmas was around the corner and I wanted her to understand where we stood. She was very apologetic which made me feel a little bad as I truly did not wish to embarrass her. The up shoot of it all is that now my daughter’s class is presenting Chanukah along with another class at the school assembly and I am coming into her class for a short presentation.
I feel torn about all of this. There’s the little voice in my head that says, ” We exist too you know” and then there is the other voice that says “It’s just Chanukah and my kids will not be getting outlandish gifts “.
So really, what I want to say to everyone is, “Thank you so much for thinking of us I really appreciate the sentiment. I’ll be making latkes this weekend come on over and we can tell you about all of our other holidays in which we celebrate our evasion of destruction. And, oh yeah, all of our holidays have some kind of great food associated with them. As we like to say, they tried to destroy us, we won, let’s go eat something delicious to celebrate.”
A very, very happy Chanukah to everyone and yes, my Christmas shopping is done. How about yours?