This year, Christmas Eve and the first night of Chanukah fell on the same day. How great is that? I thought naively when I saw the convergence on the calendar. How much time I’ll save only decorating once! How much easier it will be to plan gifts for the kids!
Oh, how wrong I was.
For the last few years (it seems in my admitted foggy recollection) Chanukah has been fairly early in December, an arrangement that means that at first I only have to dig out the one box containing the menorahs and dreidels from storage. Sometimes, depending on my tolerance for repeating the same thing several hundred times an hour, I supplement with the adorable but not child-friendly fluffy snowmen in a kippahs, even though they are a source of endless consternation for the kids who can’t understand why they aren’t allowed to play with them.
After that, all I need to do is rustle up a small gift or two each night — a book, a small car, maybe a game — and save one or two bigger items for under the tree when it finally goes up the week before Christmas. The stores aren’t quite heaving with throngs of gift-mad shoppers yet and not everything has been marked up by 400% to offset Boxing Week “sales” (I know, I’m a cynic), so picking up those little presents is relatively simple.
But this year, with the two holidays overlapping one another, there was no option to ease into things.
Plus, in some temporary and later sorely regretted moment of goodwill delirium, I’d agreed to host the office Christmas party.
At our house.
With children included.
So at the beginning of December it started: the tree needed to be decorated, lights hung, ornaments placed, candles positioned, greenery bought, the aforesaid Chanukah gear arranged to be viewed but not mauled by curious little hands.
Then there was the baking: the cookies and cakes and nibbles that are the stuff of Christmas holiday tradition plus the jelly doughnuts and latkes that make Chanukah the feast of oil-y indulgence that it is.
Thinking I’d keep ahead of the game, I’d started the usual business of collecting little gifts way back in October. I’d learned in previous years that my ability to find and then secretly purchase toys is invariably curtailed by the two year old’s uncanny propensity for contracting some rotten ailment in early December — one that requires quarantine, Tylenol, and endless watching of Minions. In those past years I’d also discovered the hard way that taking a child with a runny nose, barking cough, and pox marks all over his skin doesn’t exactly endear you to the local establishments no matter how much damage you inflict on your credit card.
But sure enough, we were hit with not one but two rounds of viruses that kept us trekking to the doctors and pharmacies through much of November and, just for good measure, a good chunk of December as well.
By the time we arrived at the much anticipated Christmas eve and first night of Chanukah, the tree had been up for twenty days and was starting to look a little worse for wear. The snowmen were decidedly beige and their kippahs held on by the thinnest of threads. The children had already declared their abject disdain for latkes, turkey, and mince pies; they were now surviving exclusively on holiday chocolates and red-and-green speckled rice krispie squares.
And I was itching for the whole thing to be over.
But I still had Christmas dinner to make, a house to clean, kids to entertain with the stack of crafts I’d foolishly bought in abundance for the party.
And I also had to wrap the selection toys I had managed to accrue; items purchased less for their educational and enriching values and rather more for their sheer availability at whichever Costco, dollar store or gas station I’d managed to sneak into alone for five minutes. (Here you go kids! Let Mummy know if you scratch and win!!).
As it turns out, one of the hidden advantages of having small kids — apart from the built-in excuse for missing events you didn’t want to attend anyway — is that quite literally anything new is absolutely thrilling for them. New socks? Wow! New book? Awesome! New squeaky noisy piece of plastic that Mummy already hates with a burning passion? Best gift ever!! They also have zero appreciation for wrapping or packaging as it’s all just a hindrance to accessing the goods inside. So while Martha Stewart would likely be horrified by my distinctly sub-par job of shoving gifts into generic gift bags and throwing a piece of tissue on top at midnight on the 23rd of December, as far as my kids were concerned, it was a stroke of genius.
In a couple of days, the festival of lights will be over, the Christmas tree packed, the decorations stored away for another year. But before it all comes to an end, let me share our own version of this hybrid holiday classic:
The Twelve Days of Christmakkah
(you know the tune)
On the twelfth day of Christmakkah my true love gave to me:
Twelve straight hours of cooking
Eleven months of planning
Ten broken ornaments
Nine pounds of holiday weight gain
Eight obscure tiny reindeer names
Seven thousand Christmas crafts
Six trips to Costco
Five golden sufganiyot
Four -ty four tiny candles
Three dozen latkes
and a Mogan David in a Christmas tree