Today, the first snow of the season drifted gently through the air: the payoff for a week of frigid cold. As I opened the front door to sniff the mineral ice, the dog shot out through my legs and ran an illegal joy lap through the neighborhood. Standing on the porch awaiting her return, I realized it was time to rig up the strings of lights to ward off the solstice dark. Hanukkah is over, and the snow ushers in the transition to Christmas. This year, we got lucky with a nice pause between the two winter holidays, making it easier to give each celebration its due. Still, it can all be a bit exhausting.
Sometimes, being an interfaith family and celebrating two religions does impinge on our need for quiet, rest, daydreaming, doing nothing. My teens crave the 10-day vacation associated with Christmas. In my effort to create a meaningful Hanukkah this year, we went a little overboard celebrating on weeknights, and created a crisis of sleep deprivation and a scramble to keep up with homework and grades. The Matisyahu concert on a Tuesday night turned out to be particularly ill-advised. The Hasidic reggae rapper (perhaps tired himself in the midst of a week of schlepping up and down the Eastern seaboard) meandered, the sound was muddy and overwhelming, the gig went much too late, and only the giant, rotating, blinged-out dreidel seemed worth the trip. Getting up at 5:30am on the high school schedule for the rest of this week has taxed us all.
The fact that schools grant a luxurious ten-day period to recover from Christmas reminds me, once again, that our entire economic and educational system revolves around the Christian calendar, not the Jewish calendar, or anyone else’s calendar. Just saying.
Journalist Susan Katz Miller is an interfaith families speaker, consultant, and coach, and author of Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family (2015), and The Interfaith Family Journal (forthcoming in 2019). Follow her on twitter @susankatzmiller.