A Poorly Written Rambling About the Holidays to get to the True Meaning

3 Dec

I am never too devastated coming down from a great Thanksgiving; looking forward to Chanukah, Christmas, and the New Year allows me to enjoy the high that is holiday cheer for a whole extra month.  Normally, I anticipate this holiday season for a good four months (yes, I have often wished the holidays would come at the end of August.)  This year, however, I am a little unprepared for these holidays.  You see, the lag time between Thanksgiving weekend and Chanukah was a mere three days.  Still sated from that luxurious Thanksgiving break, I am not nearly starved of cheer enough to begin celebrating full throttle.  Usually, Chanukah starts in mid-December, and by then, I am ready for it.  I even began celebrating Shainamas last year, proclaiming it the first Sunday of every December, because I could rarely wait long enough for the traditional winter holidays.  This year, though, I find myself caught in a snowdrift of holidays, including the one of my own design, all too soon.  This rush is kind of a problem.  The biggest problem, however, is that I find myself wondering why, exactly, I have always so looked forward to these holidays–unlike Thanksgiving, the day of thanks, they lack a cohesive mission statement–for me at least.  Why do I love these holidays so much?

When I was younger, the holiday season meant two things: Christmas and Chanukah.  Don’t laugh, but even though I was raised fully Jewish, I always loved Christmas much more than Chanukah.  My mom is Christian, so we always did a big Christmas celebration, and I loved it.  Furthermore, growing up in a small, WASPy town, I never had many fellow Jews to pump it up for Chanukah with, so I just got psyched to see lit-up Christmas decor around town.

Don’t get me wrong–I still loved Chanukah.  It just got a little overshadowed.  But the smell of latkes frying (Mom always makes a great Chanukah dinner) and the hope of getting a great present at the Hebrew School grab-bag (something better than what I brought– socks with dreidels on them?  My mom always got awkward gifts for us to bring to the grab bag, leaving the recipients utterly shafted.)  Nonetheless, I always had fun with family when we would get together to light the menorah.  We learned the story of how the Jews found oil to light the lamp in the ancient temple, and that it burned bright for eight nights.  But we also learned, later on, that this was not a biblical story.  It was kind of a fairy tale.  And, ultimately, I felt used when I realized Chanukah was invented to make Jewish kids less jealous when Christian kids got to celebrate Christmas.  I still enjoy the message of hope that the Chanukah story provides, but I don’t feel so guilty being partial to Christmas.  Even though it has no religious meaning for me, Christmas always makes me feel pretty damn fuzzy inside.

Christmas…Why did I love it so much, growing up?  Why do I love it now?  Was it because we got all our presents on Christmas, unlike most Jews, who open one every night of Chanukah?  Maybe so, but I think it was something more.  Although Christmas, technically, celebrates the birth of Jesus, the holiday has taken on a more commercial meaning, which is pretty conducive to those of us who are obsessed with it but feel that Jesus may have just been a regular dude as opposed to the savior.  Christmas, for me, means so many things: cookies, Santa, snow, hot chocolate, fun songs, no school, and, really, above all, giving.

Each of the aforementioned attributes provides me a unique sentiment–making and eating cookies makes me happy; Santa once gave me hope that I could have anything I wanted (not so anymore…); hot chocolate comforts me; cheesy Christmas songs make me excited; and, of course, no school makes me even more excited.  However, the best feeling is giving to others.  I know this sounds cliche, but my favorite things to do during the holiday break are making meals for my family, and giving gifts.  Of course, I absolutely love getting stuff, but I never really feel like I deserve presents.  Knowing I have a good life, when others don’t have as much, I just don’t feel like I can ask for stuff as though it matters to my existence.  For me, giving is much better.  And really, that can simply be giving in the form of spreading happiness.

Gifts are great, but, like in every other aspect of my life, I always say it best with food.  What is your favorite cookie?  I always try to make a good assortment that includes everyone in my family’s favorites.  Sydney always wants to make these nasty wreath cookies made out of green cornflakes glued together with marshmallows.  

We also are a great team when it comes to gingerbread men.  I tried to make a cookie from my mom’s childhood last year, but I made the wrong kind…luckily, we can always fall back on “the thought that counts.”  I don’t know if my dad has a favorite, or maybe I am drawing a blank (Dad–if you’re out there, please comment with your preferred cookie!)  Madison likes toffee bark (as do I–that shit is amazing), and I’m pretty sure Grant likes the toffee bark and Gingerbread men.  Of course, we all like grizzlenuckles, and I really enjoy date bars.  What I am getting at, though, is that I just like to see every member of my family enjoying his or her favorite cookie.

In the end of this confusing sojourn into what makes me tick, I guess cookies are the answer.  Why do I look forward to the holidays?  The fucking cookies.  Some complex person I am, huh?  Cookies allow me to bring happiness to others; they allow me to savor winter and create memories.  So there…maybe all I need to get in the spirit of the holidays is a nice batch of cookies.

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3 Responses to “A Poorly Written Rambling About the Holidays to get to the True Meaning”

  1. Laura December 4, 2010 at 12:12 am #

    Wow! Great post! I was just trying to reminisce about what made me feel the spirit during the holidays. I was recalling traveling from distances to see those that I love during the holidays. Once I reached my destination there was nothing more comforting than have a hot toddy or an egg nog to celebrate!…and being with the ones I love…or being with new friends. There is just something about getting together with people during the holidays when everyone feels the time to relax and enjoy! I love all the food and and the cookies too…it is an added bonus! Good times and happy holiday to all!

  2. Sydney December 7, 2010 at 3:27 am #

    woah..those green wreath cookies are amazing. AND i made them again this year! ate them all though so you wont have to suffer(=

    • getinmebelly December 12, 2010 at 6:38 pm #

      I like them, actually…there’s something about their artificial look and chewiness that is welcoming…

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