Being raised in a modern Orthodox Jewish home, showing any signs of Christmas spirit was considered taboo. The movies, the music, the decorations in every store was like a cruel reminder that I could spectate but never partake. When I was little, I would hang my actual argyle knee socks from the mantle in hopes that Santa might be feeling a little generous even for the Jewish boys and girls. My dad even let me put cookies out one year for Santa because I thought for sure he might come. And he did – with a random assortment of office supplies that my dad probably grabbed on his way out the door including “Passo Insurance” calendars, memo-paper and a “Void,” “Draft” and “Paid” stamp set. Just what every little girl dreams of. They tried, my good parents – but as much as I hoped the Christmas Miracle would bless our home, a part of me always knew there was no Santa.
For that reason, it is even more important for me to protect that pure and innocent belief in my own children. Every night their excitement builds as they ask how many more days until Santa comes. Jake, the inquisitive boy that he is needs to know every detail of Santa Clause.
How does he know what toys I already have?
How does he get to every single house in one night?
Will he still come even though he knows I’m Jewish?
What happens if someone is making a fire when he comes down the chimney?
Doesn’t Santa have his own children?
Who will buy Santa his presents?
Of course I answer as best I can, having no experience in really knowing what to say but still he believes. To me, none of this is about the toys or the gifts or what we spend – it’s about protecting that sweet innocence that they have, in believing that there is something magical that happens one night a year. Knowing they believe makes it all worth it.
This year, we lit our Menorah every night with pride and celebrated for 8 straight nights with various friends, family and of course presents. I do everything I can to make Hanukah exciting, special, eventful and festive for my family but I feel Christmas is just as special. To me, it’s not about the religious meaning (obviously). It’s about celebrating the magic of childhood.
Whatever you celebrate this year – I hope that it is filled with magical family memories your children will cherish for years to come.
In that, we can all believe.