When I was little, Hanukah was great, but like every Jewish kid I dreamed of having a Christmas tree to decorate. Lighting the candles for eight nights was a lovely ceremonial way to celebrate, and my brother and I always had plenty of gifts to open on the first night (as my parents quite reasonably decided that eight was a bit excessive). I loved spinning the dreidel and winning the gelt – gold, shiny, and never actually unwrapped and eaten, what with all the other delicacies to savor (and the fact that typical mass-produced gelt is about as much like chocolate as roasted pumpkin is to canned pie filling). But none of that could replace having a tree.
Once I began dancing in the Nutcracker, my pleas intensified. The magical tree that grew to enormous heights on stage made the prospect of having one in my own house all the more enticing. My parents responded by giving me the same book as a gift that I imagine many others in my situation were reading at the same moment. There’s No Such Thing As A Chanukah Bush, Sandy Goldstein! It felt the same as it did when my bat mitzvah was on the same day as my spring ballet recital, and I got Pink Slippers, Bat Mitzvah Blues. Theoretically I should have been more understanding, but I really, really wanted a tree.
Finally, they caved. When I was a high school senior, about to head off to college, nostalgia kicked in. I was about to move three thousand miles away across the Atlantic. I needed something about the holidays to miss! So we got a little tree in an even smaller planter, and a few ornaments specially made for our family. A ceramic menorah, a cheery snowman, and a Star of David for the top. Every year, returning to my parents’ house for the holidays, I dig out the tree and set it up in the foyer, so the white lights twinkle through the front window.
And to me, those twinkling lights signal that I am home, just as much as the candles of the menorah.
Happy Hanukah and Holidays to one and all!
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