Winter may be coming, but winter break can’t come soon enough!

Tomorrow begins my least favorite month of the year.

Stop calling me a Grinch! It’s not because I hate Christmas!

And for once, I actually have a boyfriend, so Christmas this year will not be spent sitting in a darkened room with my parents and grandparents watching Rooney Mara get anally raped.  

 
 (No, Goodmans don’t typically celebrate Christmas with voyeuristic sodomy. My family made me see The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo with them last year. And I had to watch that scene sandwiched between my mother and my grandmother. It was worse than the time my dog rolled in another dog’s excrement. We’re talking THAT level of bad.)


And it has nothing to do with my complete and utter lack of understanding of Christmas decorations that have nothing to do with Christmas. (Although I still don’t get why Christians make up random characters to go with their holidays. Jews have the Maccabees and Mordechai and Esther and all, but they are actually related to the holidays they go with. We don’t let a random fat man into our house to lure our children under a tree with presents. Nor do we send our kids to go sit on a strange man’s lap at the mall. Seriously, how does no one recognize that Santa is creepy? And wtf is up with a giant pink bunny hiding eggs? Bunnies don’t even lay eggs! That’s just confusing and equally creepy if it’s the same guy in the bunny suit as in the Santa costume!)

No, December is my least favorite month for three reasons: Hanukkah, cold weather, and school.

Let’s go in order, shall we?

Hanukkah is the world’s worst holiday. And the world’s best holiday because my parents still get me eight wonderful night’s worth of presents. And Sara loves her presents. (Hint hint loyal readers, my shoe size is 8 ½, Ulta gift cards are lovely, and diamonds are a girl’s best friend. Just saying.)

But Jewish guilt then demands that I make sure that my parents both have presents to open for each of the eight nights. Stupid? Yes. But I’m not telling my parents that it’s okay to not give ME a present for any of the eight nights, so they need something too. Even if it’s something little. And my dad hasn’t purchased a present for my mom since I was 12 (in some indeterminate year in the 1990s. I will give you no more clues to my age than that!), when he started dropping me off at the mall with a credit card and saying “buy your mother something nice.”

The problem? My mom hates everything. Like she’ll literally pick out a present, tell me she wants it, send me all over creation to find it, then decide she doesn’t really want it and make me return it. She doesn’t return it. I have to return it.

Add in that I hate malls, hate the Christmas music that blares in malls at this time of year incessantly (except the Bruce versions, which are acceptable year round), hate holiday shoppers, and hate crowds, and this time of year becomes the stuff of nightmares.

This year, I came up with a solution to the What-to-Get-My-Parents problem. I sent them the following email.

Okay parentals, we have reached the point where you need to give me Hanukkah ideas. I have one tiny present for dad, nothing for mom. Failure to respond to this email with ideas for yourself and/or each other will result in me getting a tattoo of “Mom” in a heart on one butt cheek, “Dad” in a heart on the other, and I will personally deliver and show off said presents at your respective places of business. So please give me some ideas because I really don’t want that crap tattooed on my ass. K thanks bye.

Mom replied that she would work on it.

Dad didn’t reply.

And when I called my dad to tell him that I was on the way to the tattoo parlor to get his present, he said “Cool. Have fun.”

Thanks dad. Really. That was helpful.

Worst holiday ever. And therefore the panic attacks leading up to it when I have to come up with eight things to give my mother (she wants a grandchild, despite the fact that the boyfriend and I have decided that if we DO have a child in the future, we are naming him Jesus Nixon the Baptist III, just to piss my parents off. But that’s one present she’s NOT getting any time soon!) make December the worst month ever.

And even worse? It’s cold out. I’m a warm weather girl. I drive a convertible. I love the beach. And I REALLY hate shivering in the freezing pre-dawn air waiting for my dog to sniff out the one and only spot that she finds worthy of receiving her bodily excretions. (As a teacher, I’m not supposed to use profanity in my daily life, so I need to find creative ways to explain the process my dog uses in finding a spot to shit. Oops. Sorry mama.)

Is it winter break yet? OH WAIT, I still have three full weeks of school to teach in the worst teaching month. Because as kids get closer to time off from school, their behavior gets exponentially worse until even the best behaved students turn into something out of Lord of the Flies, complete with a conch shell, spears, hunting a beast, and killing a fat kid. Add the possibility of snow? You don’t want to think about that. Add in the fact that they KNOW a break is coming, that they’re getting presents, and that it might snow?

If you need me, I’ll be hiding under my desk, rocking like an autistic child. Just 75 more classes to teach after today until winter break. FML.

PS: HAPPY BIRTHDAY to my best friend, Ary!  Love ya!

What do Yogi Bear, Bullwinkle, and Santa have in common? No idea, but they’re all on your lawn!

I’m just going to come right out and admit it: I don’t get the whole Christmas decorations thing.

I know, I know, you think I’m just being Grinchy because I’m Jewish. But it’s not that, I swear. I actually really like Christmas lights…when they’re tastefully done.

I’m not a huge fan of all the random Santa stuff everywhere, but I could see the appeal of putting Santa and reindeer on the roof of your house, especially if you have young children. And I’m not going to lie, I have a huge amount of respect for anyone who spends their money on a truly funny Christmas display. Yes, it probably scars young children for life to see a Santa peeing off the roof of a house, but is it really any worse than the idea of Santa making out with your mom?

What I DON’T understand, however, are the insanely tacky OTHER decorations.

It’s no secret that I can’t figure out what a bunny and eggs have to do with Easter (especially because rabbits are mammals and therefore do not lay eggs… mammals, in fact, that are known for excessive fornication… NOT exactly the message that the church usually tries to send), but I honestly think that the Easter Bunny makes more sense than a thirty-foot, light-up Yogi Bear in a Santa hat on your front lawn.

Maybe it’s me.

I mean, I AM a little rusty on the whole meaning of Christmas after all. I must be forgetting the part of the story when Jesus is born and then Yogi turns to Boo Boo and said “Heeey Boo Boo! Let’s go steal a pic-i-nic basket full of frankincense and myrrh for our Lord and Savior!” I mean, if that’s actually part of the story, then by all means, put Yogi in that Santa hat and use enough electricity to fuel a third-world nation for a year to make him light up bright enough to be seen from space.

Otherwise, maybe Yogi should be used for a different holiday.  Or maybe there’s just no place in organized religion for Yogi Bear.

Of course, Yogi is far from the worst of the Christmas decorations that I’ve seen.

For example, I understand the desire to put up a nativity scene. Technically, it’s even a lot more appropriate than all of the Santa stuff. But when I see a nativity scene comprised entirely of Rocky and Bullwinkle characters, I have to wonder if the house actually belongs to a Jew who’s mocking the whole season.

Because kids today don’t even know who Rocky and Bullwinkle are. I mean, I probably wouldn’t know who they were either if not for Cartoon Network and my ex-hippie parents. But even I’m slightly offended when I see Boris and Natasha as Mary and Joseph. And I mean, Peabody was wise, but casting Sherman as one of the Three Wise Men is a stretch. Not to mention Dudley DoRight. And I’m not even going to get into the fact that they had a moose as the baby Jesus.

When I was a kid, I remember pouting and stomping my foot and telling my parents that I didn’t want to be Jewish if it meant that I couldn’t have Christmas lights. But driving around and looking at how ridiculous some of the displays are now has finally made me side with my parents on this one. If I celebrated Christmas, I’d seriously debate destroying some people’s decorations just to stop them from bringing shame on my entire people. Because trust me, if you have inflatable cartoon decorations that are taller than your house, you ARE bringing shame on your entire people.

Because I’m the daughter of a scientist, I always try to find formulas to explain the oddities in the universe. And after many years of study, I finally solved the mystery of the tacky Christmas decorations.

Are you ready? It’s about to get intense. You might want to get some paper and a pencil to follow along with my calculations. Just warning you.

The tackiness of a Christmas display can be calculated by taking the income of the house’s resident, divided by the distance (in miles) of the house from the nearest Walmart.

In layman’s terms, that means that the poorer a person is and the closer he or she lives to a Walmart, the more ostentatious and ridiculous his or her Christmas display will be.

It may seem counterintuitive, because logic would imply that the more money a person spends on a Christmas display, the more disposable income he or she has. But when it comes to Christmas, it just doesn’t work that way. So if you want to appear richer, don’t buy a knockoff purse or a used BMW. Just go minimalist on your Christmas decorations. Like you paid someone else to do it because you’re so rich that you just can’t be bothered to do it yourself.

And if you ARE going to go overboard, do us all a favor: take the decorations down by January 2. If you leave them up until July 4, I personally will not be held responsible for any vandalism that occurs. Even though it will probably be me doing the vandalism.

Just kidding. For legal purposes, I feel it’s necessary to say that I will NOT be vandalizing ANY Christmas decorations this year. (Insert evil laugh here.)

Enjoy celebrating Christmas. Which, if a drive through the neighborhood behind Walmart is to be trusted, is the holiday when we celebrate the birth of our Bullwinkle J. Moose under the star provided by a flying Rocket J. Squirrel, while a Santa-hat wearing Yogi Bear and Winnie the Pooh look on and an overweight white guy lands on a herd of reindeer on your roof.

I’ll stick to my movies and Chinese food to celebrate the holiday.

Happy Hanukkah–er–Chanukah? Hanukah? However you spell it, it’s eight nights of presents!

Hanukkah starts tonight.

Totally exciting, right?

No.

I’m sorry to burst your holiday bubble, but Hanukkah isn’t much of a holiday. But, to be fair, neither is Christmas, when you come right down to it. I mean, if Jesus was born on December 25th, why is New Year’s a week later? It makes no sense. And what on earth does a fat guy in a red suit have to do with Jesus’ birthday?

But I digress.

Hanukkah (and yes, you can spell it with a C. But I don’t. Because then people think it’s pronounced CHA-nukah, like the Cha-Cha, and that just makes me want to start punching people. If you can’t say the “chuh” sound right, just pronounce it like an “h” so you sound less ignorant) is one of the least important holidays of the Jewish year.

I mean, it’s a fun holiday, because it’s got a good story behind it, as opposed to say, Tu B’shvat, when you plant trees, or Lag Ba Omer (which I still haven’t 100 percent figured out. I THINK it has something to do with counting seven weeks from the beginning of Passover. But I have no idea what that means or what you’re supposed to do for it). But the only reason people assign any major significance to it is because it usually falls somewhat close to Christmas and no Jewish parents want their kids to feel left out.

But, teaching at a school with a teeny-tiny Jewish population, I get asked a lot of ridiculous questions about the holiday every year, so it’s time to explain exactly what Hanukkah is.

First of all, no, there is no such thing as Hanukkah Harry.

I don’t know what idiot thought that up, but it was probably a Jew who was making fun of someone for not knowing what Hanukkah was. Unfortunately, now people think it’s true. It’s not. The only people who give us presents on Hanukkah are our families and friends. No random old man comes around to give things to Jews. To throw us into concentration camps or build gallows to hang us all from (we’ll get to that story when Purim rolls around), maybe.

But give us presents? No.

Nor is there a Hanukkah bush.

Yes, some Jews have Christmas tree envy and may choose to get some form of a shrubbery to decorate in December (insert Knights Who Say Ni joke here), but if they do that, it’s their own assimilationist idea, not a religious or culturally significant event.

The basic story behind Hanukkah is that a Jewish military group, the Maccabees, defeated the Babylonians, who after they destroyed the First Temple.

That in and of itself was considered something of a miracle and should be celebrated as such, along with all other Jewish military victories (like the Six Day War and the Yom Kippur War) because on the whole, we’re not an athletic people. If you want your taxes done or someone sued, call one of us. Need a doctor? A Jew is a good bet. Need a strong military force? Not so much. So when we DO manage to kick some major ass physically, it’s a big deal.

But that’s not what Hanukkah is REALLY about. Instead, it’s about oil.

No, I don’t mean the kind of oil the Middle East fights over now, and no, it had nothing to do with rising gas prices.

It’s about oil to light a lamp. After fighting off the Babylonians, the Maccabees needed to restore the Temple. But there was only enough oil to last one night, which would not be enough to complete their work. The miracle was that the oil lasted for eight days, just long enough to complete the Temple’s restoration as a place of worship, which is why we light candles for the eight nights of Hanukkah.

So because it’s a celebration more than a day of prayer, we do what Jews stereotypically do best: eat and play with money. We eat potato latkes, which are basically Jewish hash browns (in case any of you who haven’t had them think I misspelled the word “lakes” or something, I didn’t. They’re called latkes and they’re delicious. Especially when my grandma makes them). But latkes are significant because they’re cooked in oil, which is what the holiday is about.

I have no idea how the dreidel thing ties in, and to be honest, I’ve never understood why that game was supposed to be fun. It’s not. Granted, I’m not the world’s biggest gambler. When I go to Atlantic City, I go there to shop because I prefer to KNOW that I’m getting something for my money, like shoes. But even playing for candy in Hebrew School never appealed to me because the rules are kind of flimsy. And I’ve never seen anyone play dreidel when it wasn’t just a way to avoid doing work in Hebrew school.

But Sara, I don’t get it, if Hanukkah isn’t a big deal, why do Jewish kids get presents for eight nights?

Easy.

Because Christian kids get Christmas presents.

It may not be a significant part of the Jewish year (or even the most fun holiday of the Jewish year—presents or not, Purim beats Hanukkah hands down. You dress up like it’s Halloween, and you’re SUPPOSED to get super drunk. Literally. A rabbi told me that you’re supposed to get so drunk that you can’t tell the difference between Haman, the bad guy in the story, and Mordachai, the good guy in the story. Best holiday ever. In fact, best religion ever, just because of that holiday), but American Jewish parents need SOMETHING to bargain with to keep their kids interested in Judaism until they’re old enough to find out about the real way to celebrate Purim. 

And thus the eight nights of Hanukkah presents were born.

I, for one, am grateful to Jesus for that. He may not be my personal savior, and I have no idea when he was actually born, but he’s the reason I get eight presents every December. So on behalf of Jewish children everywhere, and in the words of Homer Simpson, “Thank you, Jebus!”

So to all the other Members of the Tribe out there, I’d like to wish you a happy Hanukkah, no matter how you personally choose to spell or celebrate it. And if anyone has figured out how to make dreidel fun, let me know. Otherwise, just enjoy the latkes and try not to burn your house down with the Hanukkah candles (which almost happened to me last year… more on that later this week when I blog about Hanukkah horror stories).