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The Eight Days of Christmas

Let’s get one thing on the table right away. I am the daughter of two Jewish parents, I married a Jewish man and I raised both of my boys to be Jewish. I consider myself Jewish, though not particularly observant. I’ve always belonged to a temple/synagogue and once in a while I go to services.

I have always lived in America, a primarily Christian country, and I’ve lived in neighborhoods where I was either in the minority or else among a substantial number of Christians. Of course, I grew up in the fifties, a time when segregation among different ethnic and religious groups was fairly normal and the word “inclusion” had not been coined.

What I’m really trying to say is that even though I’m Jewish, I LOVE Christmas. As the child of a German Jewish mother, I had a Christmas tree. I lived in a suburb where I was the first Jewish member of my fourth grade class and I learned every Christmas carol both religious and seasonal.

When I raised my family we initially had a Christmas tree and only stopped having one when some of our Jewish neighbors complained.

At that point I began a tradition that has continued for at least forty years now and that is still going on even as I am reaching later life.

We try to celebrate the season on Christmas Day with the family members who are around. I buy eight gifts for each member of the family that symbolize the eight days of Chanukah, a somewhat less significant Jewish holiday that occurs during the Christmas season. Every year I say I’m going to discontinue the tradition. It costs too much and it takes too much time. And every year out of habit I continue to do it.

I buy one gift that has the same theme for everyone. Last year everyone got earbuds or headphones. The year before everyone got plaid shirts. My kids in particular remember one year when they were growing up and my husband and I were scrimping for funds. Two of their gifts were one sock of a pair and then the other!

Nothing makes me happier than gathering together for brunch or dinner and opening the gifts from number one to eight that range in price from expensive to cheap. That includes dogs and cats (but only one for them!). I put up the Happy Hanukah sign on the fireplace and we eat bagels for breakfast and prime rib for dinner. We play the Hallelujah Chorus, but now no other Christmas carols, since my daughter-in-law is more culturally Jewish than our family.

To me traditions run strong. I’ll give my German mother credit for instilling that belief in me. Every holiday was observed with great panache whether it was Passover, Easter, or a birthday. The memories are strong and the anticipation each year continues to make life richer.

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