My parents and I didn’t celebrate Christmas in a traditional way. We celebrated Chanukah with all the candles, family gatherings and an abundance of gifts. The religious traditions were emphasized and the special love we felt from our togetherness was heightened during those annual celebrations.
Christmas was the most exciting time of the year in our small east coast town. My parents owned a retail ladies and children’s clothing store which thrived during the holiday season. As an eight year old, only child, I wanted the excitement and tradition of the thrilling Christmas holiday like everyone else. We went sled riding, threw snowballs at each other and built snowmen. Christmas and Chanukah were such a fun time of the year with bright decorations, candles and the once a year holiday songs on the radio. We wrote carefully crafted letters to Santa, asking him to fulfill our wish list of toys. The kids were believers in miracles!
In order to be a part of the joys of the two main traditional celebrations, my parents and I hung the Christmas stockings under the dining room window sill (we didn’t have a fire place or a chimney) plus cookies and milk for Santa. He always left one toy and some new winter clothes for me. Strange how some of those clothes looked like several of the styles that were sold in my parent’s store. Oh well, it was Christmas and I celebrated it like all the kids in the neighborhood with Santa and gift receiving! Sometimes the traditional Gregorian calendar and the Lunar calendar brought the two holidays together at almost the same time.
In the living room, we lit the traditional Chanukah menorah for eight nights, followed by a gift for each child in the family. Even though I knew we did not really celebrate the meaning of Christmas, I longed for a tree to decorate. All the other kids had a tree, except me. When I told Mom that I really, really, really wanted a tree, she explained the religious significance of the two holidays, which only clouded the issue. I didn’t care about any of that mumbo jumbo; I wanted to decorate a tree, like everyone else.
My parents found a creative solution. I was put in charge of decorating the small Christmas tree, which was put in one of the display windows of our clothing store. For three weeks, I went to the store after school to decorate the tree with ornaments, and under the tree I carefully placed fancy gift boxes. I made these miniatures out of paper, string, aluminum foil and anything else available. Customers praised my efforts when they came over to talk with me, while I was creating something new for the tree.
Silver Bells, White Christmas, and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer were among the songs playing on the store radio. It was Christmas, my very own creative, special, and unique way of celebrating the holiday. And, I was helping others to feel the joy from my creativity.
Christmas is a nostalgic time of year for me. The religious aspects don’t dominate my thinking and neither do the economics of sales. I am a believer in caring and sharing. For me, giving is the reason to celebrate the holidays. I have always remembered and appreciated the untraditional way my family and I celebrated Christmas and Chanukah.