Monday, December 25, 2006

Bah, Humbug: The Thrilling Conclusion

Now that I've helped decorate the tree, made the stuffing, wrapped the presents, co-hosted the family dinner, and reminded RW and MG to set out rice pudding for the Nisse, it's about time I finished this earthshattering series on why I didn't want my daughter exposed to an excess of Christmas at her public school.

No, seriously. I don't see any contradiction. Though, yeah, it is ironic. Actually, I felt a lot less tense than I usually do at this season, maybe because Christmas and Chanukah didn't overlap this year, so MG had plenty of exposure to Jewish stuff before all the fa-la-la kicked in. It also helped that RW was kind enough to wait until last Saturday evening, when Chanukah was officialy over, before putting up the tree (not that we can function for long with a tree in the middle of our eentsy living room anyway). But my suspicion is that I was more relaxed because I had a chance to say my piece.

So, where was I? Right. Well, after the snappish conversation with MG's principal, I went home and flipped out for a while. Then, the first week after Thanksgiving, MG's weekly homework packet came home with a note attached for all the parents, inviting them to share their traditions at this time of year so the class could "improve our cultural competence!"

So on the second-to-last day before break, with nary a Santa worksheet or a candy cane having shown up in her backpack, I drove MG to school and set up my multi-part, multimedia Chanukah presentation. The kids started drifting in as I was arranging things. Several were intrigued by the dreidels, and not unfamiliar with them, since it turned out another parent had donated some to the class a few weeks earlier. One little girl pointed to the bowl of chocolate gelt and asked sweetly, "What do the coins symbolize?"

So! MG and I showed them a menorah, I read "Herschel and the Hanukkah Goblins," We all stood up and counted and danced to a recording of "Ocho Kandelikas," and then I slipped out to go to work as everyone broke into groups for dreidel. They asked good questions, and several kids were already familiar with at least some Chanukah traditions.

The next day was supposed to be the last day before vacation, but there was a huge windsotorm and power outage schools all over the region were closed. RW's Tchaikovsky/Nutcracker presentation was postponed until January.

Chanukah was wonderful; I ate latkes every single day of the holiday (seriously). The last night we went over to MG's friend Camille's house and lit six menorahs. MG "read" the flames of each person's menorah with predictions like: "You will never run out of light" and "Blue skies will always be special to you." It was the first time I've ever had a menorah-reading. Maybe the girl's psychic like her mama.

This morning I found her sitting at the dining table, next to the decorated tree (fourteen real candles last night! Fourteen! [and a bucket of water on the floor]). She was playing dreidel with the coins the Nisse left her in thanks for their rice pudding.

Happy holidays, everyone.


Anonymous rachel said...

Happy holidays, Els!

1:22 PM  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

Happy holidays to you all!

You must make some killer latkes, by the way. I am not at all sure that I would use "wonderful" and "ate latkes every single day of the holiday" in the same sentence...

5:40 PM  
Blogger PPB said...

I love her predictions....

10:19 AM  
Anonymous cousin Ellen said...

Love it! We had a 3- and a 4-year old over on boxing day, neither of them Jewish, but these Upper West Siders loved our menorah and knew what it was. And then one said she wished Santa would bring her some chocolate coins!

After many years of childhood yearning after what one friend calls "goyishe naches," it was so great to see one of them wishing she had Chanukah gelt!

7:33 AM  

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