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Santa

When I was a child, Christmas was a difficult and intriguing time for me. Since I was Jewish and most of my friends were Christian, I was constantly reminded that I was different. Yes, I celebrated Hanukkah with my family and ate potato latkes and applesauce, but when it came right down to it, the traditions of Hanukah can’t compare to all things Christmas.

I remember as a small girl wanting to sit on Santa’s lap, gaze at his long white beard, tell him what I wanted for Christmas and have my picture taken with him. I imagined myself in a red velvet Christmas dress, wearing a red bow in my hair with a holly berry in the middle of it.

I longed for a Christmas tree in our house that you could see lit up from outside the window. The tree would have a silver star on top that just missed touching the ceiling. There would be boxes and boxes of ornaments I could choose to hang on the tree.

As a child when I saw Christmas trees on top of cars tucked so carefully inside their netting I thought they were one of the most beautiful sights I’d ever seen. I even loved the artificial silver- trees that stood in some of the living rooms of my childhood friends.

Wreaths fascinated me almost as much as Christmas trees. I loved the smell of the pine cones and the warm way they welcomed you at the door.

I wanted to wrap presents in green and red wrapping paper with gold bows, not the boring blue and white Hanukkah paper of my faith. I itched to sing “White Christmas” loudly, like it was my holiday song. Instead I whisper-sang it when I heard it on the radio. Perhaps I thought it was a betrayal to be heard singing it .

Christmas cookies were almost too much for me: the boxes and trays of snowmen and Santa’s, candy canes and stockings. I loved eating them and was amazed and how my friends were able to bake and decorate so many. The gingerbread men cookies were so cute. I loved their three white frosted buttons, silly smiles and the smell of ginger. It was not a spice that we used at my house, so I found the aroma exotic.

I wanted to wear a red Christmas sweater with a reindeer on it and go ice-skating. Decorate our house in colored lights.  Get a fruitcake as a gift from someone and give it to someone else. Share a Yule log with tiny mushrooms on top with my sisters.

Just once I wanted to see Santa and his reindeer flying through the sky. When I became a teenager, I wanted to get kissed under the mistletoe.  That to me would be the ultimate gift.

Yes, I liked our menorah. It was a delicate, small metal one. I liked the blue and white candles that we lit for eight nights. It was fun to spin dreidels and eat chocolate Hanukkah gelt. But those activities seemed short lived to the glitter, sparkle and songs of Christmas. I just wanted a piece of that.

Now as an adult, I see the beauty and mystery of my own faith. I cherish my heritage and the way we celebrate. Although I’m still moved by Christmas every year, I’ve learned that enjoying the rituals of someone else’s holiday can be a source of fun instead of a source of longing.