Different Decembers
By Laura Seymour

Dear Families,
seymourforweb2Every year the J and the synagogues offer programs on “The December Dilemma.” Every year we worry about our children asking about trees, lights, presents and Santa. Every year we Jews struggle with Christmas! Is it different this year because Chanukah has come and gone? Before we look for answers to this “dilemma,” we must truly understand what our dilemma is. Ask yourself: Do I want a Christmas tree? Do I feel bad not giving my children presents? Do I have trouble saying “no” to sitting on Santa’s lap? Do I want to feel the spirit by decorating my house with lights, etc.? Do I feel uncomfortable when someone wishes me a “Merry Christmas?” Once you’ve made peace with Christmas, the dilemma disappears.
There are many thoughts on the subject. Once again I quote Joel Lurie Grishaver from “40 Things You Can Do to Save the Jewish People.” He tells of a story of a daughter coming home from college and telling her mother this: “Mom, I actually figured out that Chanukah was one of the major reasons I never got involved with drugs or excessive drinking, and that I’m not involved in the promiscuous sex that is all around me. From having to celebrate Chanukah when everyone else was doing Christmas, I learned that I could be different — and that was OK.” We are different and that is OK. Jewish identity is not a December issue — we cannot make Chanukah a substitute for Christmas but we can help our children form strong Jewish identities by creating strong Jewish homes and involvement with Jewish life. If a child (or an adult) has a strong sense of their “Jewishness,” Christmas is not a threat!
Personally, I love singing the carols and we have always taken a family drive to look at the lights, which leads to the next thought on the subject. We can “visit” Christmas. We tell our children, “When we go to our friend’s home to play, we can enjoy their toys but we don’t take them home.  Their toys do not belong to us.” Well, we can visit our friends and even help decorate the tree, but we don’t take Christmas home. It doesn’t belong to us (then invite your friends for Chanukah or even better, for Shabbat or to eat in the sukkah!)
So, my friends, enjoy the “holiday season” knowing that we can focus on other things — our holiday is over!
Shalom … from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.

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