Jessica Sieff: Merry Christmas, from this Jew to you

Published 10:24 pm Wednesday, December 14, 2011

I love this time of year. Everything twinkles. Men and women wrap themselves up in scarves. Even windows and light poles get dressed up. Houses smell like baked goods and there’s a reason to buy toys even if you’re an adult.

There’s the feeling that people should be festive —even if they’re not.

I even love old decorations … like the kind that are falling apart hanging from the aforementioned light poles. Because they’re old. And nostalgic. They’re traditional and there’s something to be said for tradition.

For those of you who do not celebrate Hanukkah, I really can’t describe to you how much I enjoy my menorahs. I have a few of them. This year, I’m particularly fond of how the multicolored candles I bought look so pretty in the silver menorah that’s on my coffee table. I can’t tell you what it’s like … to come home just eight nights out of the year, keep the blinds open to my main window, whisper a quiet prayer and let my menorahs light up the room and do their thing.

I really can’t tell you how much I love it.

That’s why, if someone told me I had to start calling my menorah a “Holiday Candle Holding Apparatus,” I’d probably punch them in the face.

I’m referring to the reports that circled around earlier this month about the new, apparently very crucial, debate that we’re supposed have about no longer calling Christmas trees, Christmas trees.

I may be partial to Hanukkah — and really, who wouldn’t be — fried potato pancakes and jelly doughnuts?! And I don’t care how old you are, dreidels are fun. And blue and silver go together much better than red and green.
Still, I love me some Christmas. I have to say, you all can really throw down on a holiday celebration. Nobody dresses up cities and small towns alike for Hanukkah. At least not on this side of the globe anyway.

I love soaking up your holiday without having to observe it. I love the twinkle lights and even though I’m not down with the green, I am all for the red. Red ornaments, red ribbon, red wrapping paper. It’s just the best color.

You have better music. And I’m not talking that cliche stuff that plays on the radio all season long. I’m not a big fan of all that but I can do some classics, like Ella or Nat King and I’m a big fan of the newbies. Give me some singer/songwriter like Ingrid Michaelson busting up some “Wintersong” or Sara Bareilles with “Love is Christmas,” or bands like Coldplay and Neon Trees (check their Christmas songs out on iTunes) and it’ll be right on the myPod — next to a Barenaked Ladies’ version of “Al Hanissim.”

Don’t even say “what about that Adam Sandler song?” It was funny the first couple of years. But yes, Hanukkah has real songs. And that’s not one of them. And they’re just not as bubbly as your Christmas tunes.

Christmas gets all the best movies too. And they play all season long on TV so Jews like me don’t have to go out and buy them and feel the guilt of that purchase in the off season. I joke, I joke. Sort of. Still, we can tune in to some “Elf” or “A Christmas Story” without a second thought.

Around this time of year I feast on Christmas movies like “Love Actually” and “The Family Stone” and “While You Were Sleeping” and…

What was my point?

Oh, right. The Christmas tree.

If I were you — a Christian and not a Jew — I wouldn’t let anyone tell me that I had to call my Christmas tree a “Holiday” tree. That’s just plain crazy. And whoever thought that up is clearly not paying attention. Because no other holiday has a tree with lights and cute (and sometimes not so cute) little miniatures on it. And don’t even say a thing about a Hanukkah bush. There is no such thing.

I realize my opinion may be a little pointless in this regard, being as that I don’t actually celebrate Christmas but still. I say don’t take it sitting down, Christmas celebrators. Fight the fight.

Occupy Christmas!

And don’t call a dreidel a “top.” Because that’s not going to fly with me either.

The holidays are important days. Even when everything is breaking there’s something about the holidays that feels … redeemable. And it’s important not to lose out on that.

And I refuse to allow a growing sense of disconnect within our society trample over tradition. People want to change the feel of it all. They want to swap out old traditions for new, easy-to-execute ways. They just want to get it over with.

The holidays just aren’t the same anymore, a friend said to me. And I think that’s a shame. Because they could be just as wonderful as they always were. If we’d just let them be.

So don’t cut corners. Cut down a tree instead. You still have time. Skip the gift bags and wrap your presents. Cook a really big dinner and sit down with one another when you eat it. Talk. Discuss. Laugh a little. Keep the movies and the music playing. Invite people over. Take your time.

And when it’s all done. Don’t jump to put the ornaments back in the box. Soak up some twinkle lights.

Take it from me. We celebrate for eight days and nights and like I said, I can’t tell you how beautiful it really is — when you don’t rush it.