Happy holidays! (I'm still Jewish, and that's still a huge Christmas tree (and that's okay))
It's that time of year again. Chanukah is ending, Christmas is coming, and the eternal conundrum is still here: just what should be done about the holiday party?
Where I work, we're in the middle of party week. It's not a formal event but it does seem to be perpetual. Each year there is the main party, there are several group and community parties, and many departments host their own parties.
What kind of parties are they? Why, they're holiday parties! You know the holiday party: the one with the Christmas tree and the Christmas music and the red and green punch to drink. You must have this where you work, too? Or at your kids' school? Your neighbors' open house?
I'm going to tell you a secret.
I wish you'd just call it a Christmas party.
Look, I know you're trying to be inclusive, and it's very sweet of you. I mean it sincerely. Thank you for thinking of me, and the others like me.
(But it's really a Christmas party, isn't it?)
My kids have a tough spot with this one. Their daycare is housed in my work building, and they and their classmates come to the holiday party every year. They sing a few carols and place glitter-and-construction-paper ornaments on the massive tree and then, every year, Surprise! Ho ho ho! Santa's here! They sit on Santa's lap and promise earnestly that they've behaved and get a little gift out of his magic bag. It's the highlight of the holiday party!
My kids, who know we're Jewish, need help understanding their place in this holiday montage. We teach them that Christmas isn't our holiday and Santa isn't part of our stories, but that Christmas is an important holiday for many of our friends and that those friends believe in Santa. We tell them it's okay to help our friends celebrate their holidays. It's not so different from the tradition of inviting others to our Passover Seder, right?
I don't mind being included in your celebrations; in fact I enjoy it very much. How else could I reasonably incorporate that grand tradition of bad Santa photos into my kids' lives? And the fruitcake, I'm not kidding – it was delicious.
But here's the problem: singing the more secular Jingle Bells instead of the more overtly religious O Holy Night beneath a 20-foot Christmas tree? It rings a little hollow, or, pardon me, its jingle is a little muted, even when it's followed by I Have a Little Dreidel. Thank you, really, for thinking of me. But Chanukah doesn't need much recognition, and this isn't the way to do it.
Just call it a Christmas party. It's okay.
We're friends, right? I'd love to honor what's important to you. I'd love to help you celebrate.
Robin works for the federal government by day, is rearranging her home to make room for her kids' many newly-acquired Chanukah toys at night, and blogs at The Not-Ever-Still Life.