Monday, December 29, 2008

Festival of Lights

I feel I should mention my other Holiday- the one not about presents. I'm Jewish- or Jew(ish) as the saying goes. My mom was born in Europe, in a refugee camp after the war, and both her parents were interned in Russia. Most of their many siblings died in various camps, and the survivours, no matter the cliche, were never the same. My Bubbie never got over not being able to save all of her siblings, and carried that lifelong guilt with her. Her 6 year old nephew escaped the Nazi's, but at the cost of being a 6 year old alone and scared in Israel until several years after the war ended.

I grew up in a small town, where we were one of two Jewish families, far away from all of my Jewish family in NYC. And we never were overly Jewish. My Bubbie and Zadie denied Judaism as a religion soon after the war ended, both feeling that no god could truly do this to them, and so my mom, and later me grew up vested in Judaism as a Culture and a History, but never as a religion. We went to synagogue on the High Holidays and Hanukkah only- rarely on the Sabbath. But being Jewish was always an identifying part of me. Remembering the history, and what my family had gone through were important to me, and to me, Hanukkah was a representation of that history. I grew up always having Christmas- it was (sort of) important to dad and other then a 1 year stint with the "Hanukkah Bush" even mom accepted that Christmas was just going to happen. But it was always different for me. Christmas had nothing to do with the idea of Jesus- early on I adopted my dad's view of the cult of Santa. Spiritually, Christmas meant nothing to me. Hanukkah, with the idea of family, and the peace of the candles, that was where to me, any spirituality happened. Christmas was about gifts, Hanukkah was about Peace.

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