I’m conflicted. Now that Cooper is 21/2 years old, he’s capable of understanding things more and more every day. That is a good thing but when it comes to the “winter” holidays, it is becoming more of a feat each day to teach him and help him understand that he celebrates two holidays.
I am Jewish and my husband is Catholic. Neither of us is practicing, however we cling to our family traditions and want Cooper to understand he is lucky enough to celebrate the traditions and celebrations of not one, but two special holidays – Christmas and Hanukkah.
My husband explains to Cooper that Santa Claus comes on Christmas Eve to bring little boys and girls gifts so when they awaken on Christmas morning, there will be gifts under the tree. As Shakespeare would say, “Aye, there’s the rub.” I am left to explain how Hanukkah began and how there was only a tiny amount of oil left for the Menorah but miraculously it lasted eight days. Hanukkah is celebrated with a gift on each of the eight nights and we play the dreidel and have latkes and jelly doughnuts. I don’t have a symbolic context, like Santa Claus, to physically show Cooper. I guess there is always the gloriously made up character, Hanukkah Harry courtesy of Jon Lovitz on an old SNL sketch, but it’s just not the same thing as Santa Claus. Sure there is now the Mensch on the Bench to sit next to the Elf on the Shelf but it doesn’t work for me I might just have to use Hanukkah Harry in the future because that is something that is fun and amusing to me.
Whatever the case may be, I don’t want Cooper to lose the importance and gratitude he should feel throughout the year and especially at this time. It’s not about the presents as much as it is being grateful for what you have and what you can give. When my mom recently visited, we took the change Cooper had collected in his weekly Tzedakah (charity) box and took it, along with a big bag of dog food, to the animal shelter. Dogs and saving homeless animals are a passion of ours and we want Cooper to understand that animals cannot speak for themselves and if we can help, it is important that we do. I have also taken Cooper to Goodwill and we donated his old clothes and toys and I did my best to explain how this helps little boys and girls who might not have enough clothes to wear. I am the last person who is preachy, I’m just trying to educate him to the best of my abilities to remember that this season may be about receiving presents but if he can also learn to give back his time to help others in need, that would make us immensely happy too.