Although I'm Jewish, I've always been a fan of Christmas. When I was growing up, my parents wedding anniversary was on Christmas eve, and even though they were both Jewish, it was part of their anniversary tradition to put up a Christmas tree. Oh, there was talk in my predominantly, Jewish neighborhood, that one of the Howell's must NOT really be Jewish, but this was not the case. They just simply loved the festivity that a Christmas tree added to their anniversary and holiday season.
Our trees were always beautiful - always real and always at least 8 feet tall. The tree was adorned with 3 kinds of lights: the large old fashioned bulbs, small twinkling lights and bubble lights that sat on the branches with small tubes of colored oil, which when heated would bubble away magnificently. The ornaments were of different colors, shapes and sizes and each one was prettier than the next, and on top of the tree sat a ring with 3 pixies sitting around it, holding little lanterns which lit up. And it delights me no end, that to this day the pixie topper is still going strong and sitting on top of my tree. I guess if there's one nice thing I can say about Richie Howell, it's that he did a GREAT Christmas tree and he taught me how to do so as well.
Although we always had a Christmas tree, we never went to church or celebrated the holiday in any other way; after all, that's not what Jews would do. We did light our menorah and enjoy my mom's potato latkes and each year our parents would let us decide as to when we wanted to open our presents; at Chanukah or Christmas. We tried all different variations, like one present at Chanukah and teh rest at Christmas or all 8 nights of Chanukah and nothing at Christmas, but I'll admit, it was a little anticlimactic to have these Extraordinary trees with nothing under them, so we usually opted for the majority of our gifts at Christmas, but we forewent lighting our menorah and honoring our heritage.
After my parents passed away, I continued to celebrate both holidays; so marrying a Catholic guy didn't change my holiday traditions at all. We still light our menorah and decorate our tree; we just don't go to synagogue or church.
Many years ago, Big V gave me a Winnie the Pooh menorah. I had been a big fan for years; long before it was popular to be one. In fact, Luis calls me "Pooh," I'm assuming because of the resemblance of our bellies. Anyway, I went to take the menorah out of its box and it slipped out of my hand and broke (thankfully, nowhere near my feet.) I then took out my cheapie menorah that I've had forever and found that I only had enough candles for a couple of nights. "No problem" I thought, "I'll just go to Target tomorrow."
Kelsie and I went to Target and much to my dismay I found nothing whatsoever for Chanukah or any other holiday but Christmas for that matter. I tried to ask an associate, but she didn't speak enough English to understand. She called over another associate who was also Hispanic, and looked at me like I had 3 heads when I told her that I was looking for Chanukah candles. She said "Maybe Linda," as Linda was the Caucasian associate who was heading our way; and when they called her over she politely said "How can I help you Ma'am;" and when I told her what I was looking for, her volume increased exceedingly. She shouted "OH, Chanukah! No, we don't have anything for Chanukah at this location. Maybe try the Bell road / Arrowhead store." She then said "I didn't know that there were that many people around here who were interested in Chanukah" (again speaking at the top of her lungs.) Next she told me that I could go online and let them know that I wanted this location to carry Chanukah stuff, and Passover and Yom Kippur too. She loudly followed that suggestion up with; "Do you know how to do that?" To which I calmly replied; "I think I can figure it out." Linda thought she was being ever so helpful when she wrote the store id # down on a sticky note for me; so I'm sure that she was shocked to find out that I went right to her manager to complain about her. OK, It's true, I was fuming. I was not only insulted that Target carried nothing for Chanukah, but then to be spoken to by Linda,the way that I was; honestly, if I was looking for items for my Kwanzaa celebration, would Linda have told me "Oh, I didn't know that people around here were interested in Kwanzaa;" if you know what I mean. When the manager came over I calmly told her that I wanted to make a complaint about the way I was spoken to by one of the associates. I went on to say "I was in your holiday section, but I guess you can't call it that since there is only one holiday represented over there." I then went on to tell her what had happened. I explained that Linda's raised tone of voice, which caused other shoppers to look over towards our conversation, made me uncomfortable and that I felt very insulted when she asked me if I knew how to leave a comment online; almost as if she was saying "You're Jewish so you must be stupid." And I told her that I was very disturbed by the fact that there were only Christmas items available. The manager apologized profusely, because of course that's all she could do - and we left the store, determined to find Chanukah candles before nightfall.
Disgusted by Target, we went to Walmart, but they too were void of any Chanukah provisions. I then went to the other Target location that Linda had recommended and again had to ask an associate as I didn't see any Chanukah anything. She told me that she thought they were on an end cap because they had recently been marked down to clearance and when we walked over to where she thought they were; there were none to be had. I suppose that no one in this area has an interest or use for Chanukah candles until they go on clearance. Out of desperation I went to Cost Plus, and they in fact had some beautiful Chanukah candles, for $12.99 and 50% off. I purchased the $7 Chanukah candles, shocked that I had to do so, but I reasoned that we spend a lot more money on Christmas than we do on Chanukah, so a $7 purchase for my holiday was justified. I tell you, I don't think there has ever been a year that I've wanted to light those candles and say my prayer more. I felt persecuted and sad, because it's not as if I live an area where there is no Jewish population; just a small one. I thought of my grandparents who were killed in the Holocaust JUST BECAUSE they were Jewish, and there was no way, that I would ignore Chanukah because it was difficult to find my candles.
Now, this experience didn't make me resent Christmas, or the good tidings for a Merry one. I LOVE Merry Christmas, I say it myself; because to me it isn't necessarily a religious salutation or sentiment; but a wish for a wonderful and special day. It is the one day of the year that most people share peace on earth and good will towards man but at the same time; no one else should be denied or slighted for their beliefs. And I think that I am feeling compelled to mention this because a day or so after my Target incident, a Facebook "friend" had put her status as something like, "I was so happy to see a Merry christmas sign at Target, " and then I can't remember her exact words but her implication was that she was tired of having to endure a Happy Holiday or Season's greetings sign and instead of Merry Christmas, just to be politically correct. Well, it was all I could do to keep from leaving a comment, but I knew that it probably wouldn't have made a difference if I had. She felt denied her preferred greeting, but I shouldn't feel bad that my holiday wasn't even acknowledged by this store or others? It's not like I was celebrating Festivus for crying out loud. On the other hand, a very kind soul sent me an email apologizing because she knows that I was raised Jewish, but she thought that she, may have sent me a Merry Christmas card as opposed to a Happy Holidays. I thanked her for being so thoughful and considerate and explained that I had no problem at all with receiving a Merry Christmas card. I don't expect someone to send me something different just because Christmas isn't my religious holiday. I am thankful for any kindness and I am happy to be the recipient of whatever well wishes the person wants to send.
And so, on this wonderful Christmas day; I wish you all the VERY Merriest Christmas, Season's Greetings, Happy Holidays and YES, a Happy Chanukah (although it's already passed.) I will not wish you a happy new year as yet; as I am going to try and rise to the occasion and complete another post by the 1st of the year and offer My new years wishes then.
Till next time...
Queen of EVERYTHING