Sunday, December 2, 2007

Just a Minor Holiday

There was an interesting story on the front page of our newspaper on Friday. Jewish consumers on the Island were complaining about a dearth of Chanuka-themed items available this year. "Decorating for the holiday is a real problem this year," one person was quoted as saying. Retailers pointed out that they do their holiday ordering early and it is not that they are confusing Chanukah with Xmas. One frum person was also interviewed and said: "This holiday is not about decorating or all the gifts. It's actually a minor holiday on the Jewish calendar."

Well, yes. He wasn't wrong. All that is really necessary for this holiday is a menorah and some oil. And maybe a dreidle or two. And perhaps some "Chanukah gelt." Or maybe a gift instead of the gelt. And let's not forget a ton or two of potatoes for latkes. And a few dozen sufganiyot. And a rousing rendition of Maoz Tzur and Hanairos Halolu. And for the little ones, fifty-eight repetitions, off key, of "I had a little dreidle," or "Sivivon, sof, sof,sof." Okay, and maybe some of those printed napkins with "chanukah" on them just to add a little extra oomph to the tables that get set and set and set as family comes together on that "minor" holiday that allows driving and huge crowds at groaning tables. And maybe a game or two of "kvitlach" to raise some money for charity.

Chanukah is for many a time for family get togethers. Is there anyone on earth who doesn't sometimes grit their teeth over the thought of everyone they are going to get to see? There's Tante Malka, who hugs you and tells you "I've always loved how that outfit looks on you." Or Tante Esther who greets your single children with a sad smile and says: "Those boys/girls must be blind. Maybe you need to get out more so they can see you better?" Or Tante Rachel, who asks "Are you sure you wanted this color carpet?" The color of carpet won't matter because Uncle Chaim just spilled a plate of chrain on it. Then there is cousin Bayla who announces only when she arrives that she has gone macrobiotic and do you have anything that she can eat. Then there is cousin Moshe who looks at the food on the table and takes out a bottle of Nexium--"Can't take chances" he says. There have to be 11 salad dressings on the table because no one will eat the same one, and of course, you still don't have the one that Yankele has to have or he will cry all night. Uncle Avi will refuse to get driving instructions from you and will arrive over an hour late, and what do you mean you sat down to eat without him! Cousin Rivka will arrive with three extra guests in tow--"I knew you wouldn't mind. You always make too much." And then there is Tante Sarah who asks "Did you really mean for this to taste like this?"

Little Shimmy is sitting quietly in a corner under the piano bench observing with fascination as he pulls all the leaves off your prize orchid. But that's okay because little Yitzchak has somehow found a black indelible marker in his mother's purse and is quietly drawing pictures on the wallpaper in the hallway. Tante Miriam is the only one who is going to insist on helping you serve, only she has her arm in a cast, so of course you refuse. And when you walk into the kitchen after the main meal is finished and dessert is about to come out you think to yourself "I can't really own all those dishes and platters and bowls." And then everyone is suddenly in coats and the air resounds with "I"H next year once again" and you find yourself agreeing.

It's like childbirth. You have a whole year to forget the pain, and then you do it all over again. Actually, I like Chanukah. Any holiday where you can wish someone that the holiday should be "freilach" is just fine by me. So to all of you, a freilachen Chanukah.


Anonymous said...

We have to be related because I am sure those relatives you say are yours always show up at my house. Ever notice, though, that the Chanukah dinners are never at their house?

Bad4shidduchim(in exile) said...

I love your relatives. They're worse than mine.

Anonymous said...

We have the family over for the first night. That way we can enjoy the rest of Chanuka. And if I hear those boys don't know what they are missing one more time I just might refuse to come down for dinner the next time they are here.

Anonymous said...

My first year with a hers and mine relative dinner for Chanukah. Also my last. If someone had told me what would happen I would have asked if they had smoked something funny. how do what seems like perfectly sane people when you see them somewhere else turn into weirdos when they sit down at a dinner table?

Anonymous said...

We don't worry about what the adults will say when we get together. It's the little kids who blab everything. We were getting ready to sit down to lunch today and my shiviger asked where my sister in law was. Her husband said she was just changing clothes and then the three year old said, no she's not, she's throwing up in the toilet again. She does that every day before lunch. So much for secrets. Maybe we should wait until they are 14 or 15 to teach them how to talk?