Courtesy of Kveller; Photo credit: Zoe Lukas.

Courtesy of Kveller; Photo credit: Zoe Lukas.

(Kveller) “But why CAN’T we put up blue and white lights?” pleaded Lilly.

It was not the first time that one of our children has asked this question. Let’s face it: Hanukkah, as far as the Jewish liturgical calendar is concerned, lacks the religious punch of a Yom Kippur or a Sukkot. Rabbis can insist from now until forever that Hanukkah has only one correct spelling (in Hebrew, that is), never comes early or late on the Jewish calendar (the 25th of Kislev), and that it is a minor holiday.

But we know the truth: Hanukkah (or Chanukah or Hannukah or maybe even Januka) is a big deal for those of us in the religious minority.

Returning to Lilly’s question, how does a Jewish family, however you define that, deal with holiday décor during this season?

Some options:

1. Reject all decorations. Hey, it’s a very minor holiday. You want lights? Lights we got. Light the menorah and be done with it. You wanna go all out with the decorations? Try Sukkot.

2. Only permit “traditional” Chanukah decor. Menorahs, dreidels, paper chains. (Again with the paper chains…)

3. Embrace the non-religious Christmas offerings. There is nothing religious about tinsel and Frosty the Snowman, Rabbi.

We have another option: the burgeoning category of items traditionally used for Christmas but given a Chanukah twist. (Shouldn’t someone come up with a shorter term for that?)

Wreaths have become a year-round way to decorate one’s front door. If you want to stay away from the traditional evergreen, it is simple to find one with a Jewish twist. A quick search online will yield dozens of results from a wreath adorned with blue and gold ornaments to a Star of David made of silver tinsel.

Never felt quite right wearing a Christmas-themed sweater to your company’s annual Ugly Christmas Sweater soiree? No longer a problem. Many stores produce a line of Ugly Chanukah Sweaters. 

Wanted to get in on the seasonal fun and join Santa hat-wearing friends while out and about during the month of December but felt a little awkward? Now available is a Santa hat with blue replacing the red.

Felt as though you missed out as a kid on decorating gingerbread houses around this time of year? It turns out, as noted in a article that this Hansel-and-Gretel-inspired tradition began in Germany in the 1800s. Just in time for Chanukah, Manischewitz has unveiled its Chanukah House Vanilla Cookie Decorating Kit.

Thinking that it’s counterintuitive to be the only darkened house on the block during the Festival of Lights, but don’t want anything too Christmasy? Fulfill the commandment to publish the Chanukah miracle with huge inflatable dreidels, an eight foot menorah, or blue-and-white twinkling lights.

As my husband explained to the kids, there are many different ways to embrace Chanukah. And it is up to each family to determine what is the right way…for them. It’s not up to their friends. Or the in-laws. Or even their rabbi.

So there will be no lights on our house. No dreidel-festooned wreath on our door. Or Chanukah cookie house in our kitchen. Somehow those objects feel inauthentic to me. As if we are trying to emulate our Christian neighbors rather than cherish the things that reflect the traditions handed down through the generations. Instead, our home is now filled with menorahs, dreidels, banners, and lots and lots of sweet treats. Because that’s the way our one family does Chanukah.

No matter how you choose to celebrate Chanukah, may the warmth of the lights illuminate our lives.

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