Sunday, December 5, 2010

This Little Jew Gets a Christmas Tree

When I was little, the holiday season meant sitting around our kitchen table eating latkes and lighting the Menorah.  I have fond memories of running upstairs to my parent's bedroom where there would be two large garbage bags full of presents - one for me and one for my brother.  Each night we would get to pick one, bring it downstairs, and open it.  I personally liked to save the biggest one until the 8th night of Hanukkah so it would end on a bang. 

There was only one other Jewish kid in my entire grade and he was half Jewish.  Therefore, the holiday season also meant being the only one who didn't celebrate Christmas.  My parents tried to make us feel more included by giving us stockings on Christmas morning.  Of course, someone a little bit different dropped off the goodies:

Also, every year my mother would come into my classroom and teach all the other kids about Hanukkah.  She would make potato latkes, tell the story of the oil that just kept burning, and give everyone a flourescent colored dreidel.

I still look back on this very fondly and I love her for doing that.  It made me feel special during a time when I could have felt very left out. 

Then, I grew up and married a Catholic.  Now we get double the fun!  The benefit of being an interfaith family is that you get to celebrate twice as many holidays.  This past week my husband has stood by my side as we lit the Menorah and he has even come up with his own improvised prayer.  It goes something like this: "Baruch ata, Adonai eloheinu....nanu nanu nanu."  Hey, close enough. I don't understand the Hebrew either.

I finally get to have a Christmas tree!  I spent hours trying to find the best tree for our apartment.  So many choices...tall, short, fat, skinny, white lights, colored lights, no lights.  Shhh, I know that Home Depot only has like 10 fake trees to choose from, but it was a big decision and I had never done this before.  I brought my tree home and I've been just waiting for Thanksgiving to pass so it would be socially acceptable to put it up.

Then came my hunt for ornaments.  We have approximately 8 ornaments that have been given to us over the years, so we needed more to fill the tree.  As I walked around the Christmas Tree Shop, I realized that I had absolutely no idea what I was doing.  People were pulling things off the shelves left and right but there I was, standing in the middle of the aisle, puzzled.  It occurred to me that I had no clue how many ornaments one needs for a tree.  I called in reinforcements:

Me: "Hi Mom, how many ornaments do you think I need for a 6.5 foot tree?"
Mom: "Umm... I think you should get 12."

Clearly my mother had never decorated a Christmas tree either.

I picked up 88 starter ornaments, a tree skirt (who knew?), and a snowflake tree topper (unfortunately, I could not find a Star of David).  The store was packed, children were screaming, ornaments were breaking, shopping carts were colliding...oy gevalt. I found it quite ironic that shopping for the "Holly Jolly" season made me want to jump off a cliff.  Don't worry, I broke out my yenta heritage, got in everyone's way, and shoved through the crowd with my elbows held high.

As I approached the check-out line, I passed the tiny shelf of clearance Hanukkah decorations and I stopped to take a look at the plastic dreidels, chocolate gelt, and stuffed bears with "Happy Hanukkah" stitched across their abdomens.  Standing in front of the shelf admiring a Menorah was an elderly Asian man.  Now, I'm not meaning to stereotype here, but I'm almost 100% sure that he was not Jewish.  I had to chuckle to myself because I realized that the same bewildered look on his face was most likely present on mine as I fumbled through the piles of Christmas stuff.  I kind of wanted to tell him that the ceramic flip flop Menorah was really weird, but I figured I'd let him decide that on his own. 

And without further ado, I give you this little Jew's first Christmas tree:

If you look closer in our living room, you will see another beautiful Christmas decoration that dates back to circa 1953:

This amazing light up Santa belonged to my late grandparents, Grandpa Bob and Nanny.  Apparently, I'm not the only Jew in the family who enjoyed a little Christmas spirit.


  1. Amy, it's gorgeous! I think you totally outdid yourself, especially for your first try :)

  2. PS that Santa is pretty epic. I'm jealous!

  3. Were you at the christmas tree shop in assembly square?? that one is such a nightmare (although i'm guessing they are all pretty brutal), esp at xmas time! xoxo

  4. Yay, Amy it looks beautiful!! 88 ornaments is perfect, I guess I overestimated! Love it, can't wait to see it in person.

  5. Thanks ladies! It was actually closer to 100 after I added the ornaments we had at home etc, so you were spot on.

  6. yeahh I said 100 and you thought I was crazy!

  7. I love your tree and I love this post! I feel those 88 ornaments look perfectly distributed. Then again, when we've had trees in the past, I always get the tinsel taken away from me due to irresponsible usage.

    One request from you, Mrs. Doctor Blogger: Kindly publicize yourself a little when you post!

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