This year Hannukah and Christmas coincided. This might not be big news to gentiles, but to Jews, it is a fortuitous lunar/solar alignment that makes us want to spin around singing “The Age of Aquarius.” Because when the two holidays combine, that means we have something to do on Christmas Eve, when everyone else is busy, most things are closed, and those that aren’t are staffed by people who are thoroughly pissed off that they have to be working on Christmas.
So we have our big-ole Latke and best Brisket in the world party. We also have excessive gift-giving, to which I am, in principle, opposed, but which in actuality, I loved.
Last night I saw my kids delight beyond belief in the gifts their grandparents and aunts and uncles gave them. Pokemon Cards for my son, make your own paper flowers for my daughter, a leapfrog Didj (already having glitches, btw) and a Leapster. A nutcracker book (complete with Nutcracker and CD) for my daughter. A Smithsonian build your own Jet Engine for my son. Calico Critters were there, and Groovy Girls, and Lego galore. The piece de la resistance was the Dollhouse. I gave my daughter my childhood dollhouse – complete with itsy bitsy Lord and Taylor shopping bags filled with teeny weeny gifts, a caopy bed with bedding corcheted by my grandmother, and a wee little fly swatter. It was a celebration of excess at a time when, in every other way, I’m watching my pennies. and cutting back and worrying about the financial situation.
What a relief.
It’s not that I’m not worried about our finances. Unless you’re a lawyer specializing in bankruptcy, you’re pretty much going to have a bad year. But for just one night, I got to pretend it wasn’t happening. Plus, my kids were so thankful, so polite. So eager to give their cousins and grandparents gifts and to see that they liked them, too.
Maybe they would have been happy with half as many gifts. Well, maybe not. But they were genuinely thrilled with what they got. (And did I mention my gift? A photo album made and annotated by my kids. Love it.)
I know that there is suffering in the world. I know that this kind of excess is shameful, maybe even immoral, given our economic crisis, the people out of work, the kids without gifts. (We did don’t several gifts to a toy drive at school. Just so you know.)
I liked seeing my kids so happy. ‘Cause if every moment is a lesson — when will we know what we’ve learned? If every action is predicated upon guilt, responsibility, and doing the “right thing” when will we reap the benefits of being good people trying our best? Maybe it’s all just justification on my part, an excuse to engage in excessive consumerism, (which, by the way, is good for the economy. I do love a good rationalization) but I can’t help but think that maybe once in a while, it isn’t so bad to let the lessons of life go by the wayside, and let sheer joy reign supreme.