I grew up on Long Island, New York, where even the Jews had Christmas trees. Everywhere you looked half-lit Menorah’s commingled with Frosty the Snowman and Santa lawn ornaments. Advent calendars and Dreidels brought the same kind of pleasure. Until I was 11, I was positive Santa brought my presents the same as he brought any of my friends, I just didn’t understand what Jesus had to do with gift giving. And now I know why.
Long Island is home of the disposable income. A child of the lucrative mid-eighties my mom wanted to buy me things. Toys were getting awesome by the time I was old enough to appreciate them, game systems had moved far beyond Pong. Who didn’t want Barbie’s Malibu dream house, right? With parents willing to buy nearly anything, the mentality was ‘Go Big or Go Home’, and no one wanted to leave the party.
We lived on a street where people were endlessly competitive. Who had the nicest car, best sled, newest Christmas lights, or biggest most offensive blow up snow globe taking up 95% of their front lawn were real things to consider and covet…. I mean, the first year someone hung icicle lights I thought my neighbors heart was going to fail him, until he too had the ridiculous lights hanging from his roof.
I am an adult now. In a new state, with a young family of my own, and time has shifted before me. My life has gone from one of constantly being watched, to being called on to do the watching. A chorus of ‘Mommy, watch me!’ and ‘Mommy, look here!’ rings in my head day in and day out. The joy of receiving has become the ultimate joy, the purest one; the joy of giving.
I want to give my kids things, yes, but I also want to give them a Jewish identity that got muddled in the attempt to let me ‘fit in’, where I grew up. I’ve joined a Temple here, I send my kids to a Jewish day school, we celebrate all the big and holy holidays, not to mention the not so big and holy ones, we say prayers before meals and try to do our best in making it all seem fun not overwhelming. But commercial America makes my attempts at fun look more like fart-dust. How can a spinning top compare to the endless parade of All The Things that Christmas gets?
Come October of every year, my kids punim’s (Yiddish for: face) resemble something more similar to The Grinch or Scrooge than anything remotely near to Holiday Cheer, and it’s because of Christmas Envy.
Take today, for example. I am in Barnes & Noble, gift buying when a lady in the children’s section approaches me. “Christmas shopping?” she asks cheerfully. (I need to state here, I am not one of those crazy people of any religion or non-religion who expects to be greeted by my particular choice of words. I take great pleasure in being wished a Merry Christmas, or a Happy Hanukkah, or just a ‘have a great day’ because there has never been an article in the paper, ever, where someone died from a wish of wellness).
“Actually,” I tell her, “I was wondering where your Hanukkah books are, I’m looking for…”
“We don’t have any” she cuts me off. “But I can order anything you’d like.” She adds in, smiling.
I am surrounded (literally) by three beautiful displays of Christmas cheer, and one entire pyramid of creepy Elves some people put around their house to ensure their children make use of the therapy benefits their health care will include as adults.
We don’t count at Barnes and Noble, and we don’t count much elsewhere either.
At TJ Maxx and Marshall’s we have one pitiful end cap with the same boring silver Menorah, blue and white over-priced candles and wooden dreidels. Snore.
At Costco there is the same exact four pack of white and blue Hanukkah wrapping paper as last year, and the year before, and the year before that, and a tub of approximately 6,000 gelt (chocolate coins). (And I was grateful! Because I couldn’t even find wrapping paper anywhere else).
I am tired of being grateful to be abused by The Man.
Target has had their Christmas lights out since before the middle of October, but it’s three weeks before Hanukkah and I haven’t found a single package of bows or ribbon (sure to be blue and white).
The Mensch on The Bench, a creepy old man who leers at you from on high while dressed in his Friday night propers rivals the Elf on The Shelf. This is maybe the only new thing to happen to Hanukkah since the Menorah went electric and I want to know Why.
Why is it okay for big box retail to assume that a holiday which lasts one full week isn’t worthy of them bending over backwards for at least as much as the holiday The Big Red Man runs? And I’ve heard it before, you have too, ‘holidays are not about gifts’ and ‘holidays are not about decorations’ and ‘holidays are about feelings’ well Feel This because I like to buy shit I have to store in my garage for ten months out of the year Just As Much As the next mom.
I like to see my husband glare at me from the basement when he realizes that 75% of that ‘clutter’ is actually seasonal decor and the other 25% is ‘great deals on gifts I found in July that I won’t need for six months’. That is just the kind of stuff that makes me downright joyful.
I would never deny my children the absolute pleasure of using a special cup, plate, spoon, fork, knife and napkin for eight nights of the year, except, oh that’s right- I can’t find any.
So Target, Barnes & Noble, Maxx, Marshall’s, Costco, and all the rest of them, if I want to give you my money, you should be happy to take it. Give me thirty thousand wrapping papers to choose from with coordinating bows. I’ll take Judah Maccabee dancing in the desert for one roll and a pan frying latkes for another. Give me huge dreidels to blow up on my non-existent city lawn, and star of David lights to twinkle from my rooftop. You could sell the shit out of some Hanukkah straight to dvd specials. Monster High lights the Menorah, My Little Pony fights the Greeks, Elmo gets his first Torah Portion or Jake and his neverland pirates search for more oil to keep the lights lit.
This stuff is gold, fools- Jewish kids everywhere are salvating as we speak! There are children all over who are just dying for an afternoon family special that talks about yarmulkes and talit, just once.
Until then though, big box stores, you get a big thumbs down from This Goldston. And if Santa is reading, tell Hanukkah Harry to put the pedal to the medal on this stuff, because time is ticking.