I grew up without Christmas.
In a fairly religious family that gave us eight days of Chanukah and the requisite equal number of gifts, I still felt that lure of the magic of the season. As much as I tried to feel a part of it by pretending it was really a celebration of winter, or squeezing in among all the holiday shoppers at Wanamaker’s in Philly to buy my parents their anniversary gift (December 22) and my mom’s birthday gift (Christmas Eve – Happy almost Birthday, Mom!), I still felt like an interloper.
I’d indulge in Christmas movies. I still do. I love them all. Funny ones. Romantic ones. Sappy ones. They’d permit me to privately satisfy my craving to be a part of the joyousness of the holiday. I wrangled my way into high school choir (I can’t hold a tune) so I could take part in the pageantry of our Christmas assembly, gracefully walking into the auditorium my hands wrapped around a glowing candle and my voice belting out carols. The audience was filled with our beaming parents, including mine.
When I was very young, my dad, obviously aware of the pull, would hang stockings for my sister and me. Or we’d awake Christmas morning to find one of our reserved Chanukah presents lying at the foot of our beds. I still remember the stuffed animal dog with the wiry shape and grosgrain ribbon. My dad would pick one night and we’d drive around and look at all the pretty Christmas lights embellishing other people’s homes.
Although we had this small taste of Christmas, we never put up decorations – either inside or outside. The world didn’t need to know who we were or what we did behind closed doors. We did what we wanted to recognize the majesty of the season. I’ll always love my dad for understanding this.
As it turned out, I married someone who did grow up celebrating Christmas. And even though the religion practiced in our home is derived from my background, I honored his one request to celebrate Christmas.
So in the next couple of days, I will be with my children and we will celebrate memories; memories of my in-laws, my dad, my husband – all deceased. The stockings will be hung by the fireplace and will be filled with lots of goodies, including Chanukah gelt.
As for Christmas morning, we’ll sit down to feast on a breakfast as traditional (to us) as it is yummy. We’ll have eggs and ham, and lox and bagel.
Happy holidays everyone!