22 December 2009


Well, Chanukah is over but I thought I'd share some of my decorations and ideas. If for no other reason, than to have a record for myself so we can do it all again next year.

First, let me start by explaining a little bit about our family. I am Jewish from day one. I went to a Jewish pre-school and went to Hebrew and Sunday school up until my Bat Mitzvah. In our home, however, daily life was pretty secular. We celebrated Chanukah and went to other people's homes for other holidays. We spent Passover at a cousin's and Sukkot at the Temple. We never stopped eating bread at home, however, and never built our own Sukkah. I knew about Shabbat but never celebrated and I knew, a little, about keeping kosher but it wasn't important in our home. As I grew up I realized how deprived I was.

My husband (I call him MooGoo) was raised Lutheran. He was dragged to church every Sunday by his parents and told he must belive or go to hell. He remembers asking questions only to be shut up by the Sunday school teacher who told him he shouldn't ask questions but just have faith. This didn't work very well for him and he grew up with a hatred of church and proclaimed himself an atheist. Still, he was tolerant of me wanting more Judaism in my life and we celebrated Shabbat (Friday night only at first) and little by little other holidays too.

My kids are both adopted and came to us when they were 8 and 5 years of age. Before they came to us they had gone to a Southern Baptist church. They were our foster children only, so we felt as if we had to take them to church. MooGoo tried every church in town but in the end the girls and he decided it just wasn't for them. We had also stopped celebrating Shabbat. The girls had a hard enough time adjusting without these strange rituals.

Before the girls we went back and forth between celebrating Chanukah and Christmas. We lit the candles on Chanukah (sometimes) and gave eachother gifts for Christmas. At the time, I was a secular Jew. We compromised on a white tree with blue and silver balls. Truth be told, I was looking for a pink tree at the time, but couldn't find one.

The first year the kids were with us we celebrated both Christmas and Chanukah. We lit the candles and gave small gifts for Chanukah and the bigger presents were saved for Christmas. That first year looked like a toy factory in our living room. The girls didn't have a lot of toys and I guess we tried to make up for all the years Santa forgot them. The second year I started getting more religious. We had decided to start celebrating Shabbat and some of the other holidays. I tried not to push anything on the rest of the family but they all seemed to enjoy it. Chanukah the second year was a little more even with Christmas in terms of gifts. They still had presents from their birth family who expected them to celebrate Christmas. They were also in the public school with no other Jewish children and already different because they had two families. I didn't want to make them feel any more out of place.

Fast forward to this year. This year we all decided to give presents on Chanukah and Christmas we would still have the socks hung by the fireplace. For some reason I've yet to figure out, my mother is giving gifts on Christmas now. The only thing I can think of is because my grandfather died on the first night of Chanukah. My brother married a Catholic girl so they celebrate Christmas. We usually all go over to their house for Christmas dinner. This year they are away and Christmas falls on Shabbat. We've decided that I'll make a big Shabbat meal and my parents can come over and give gifts. We will only be doing the socks. The kids are happy with this and happy to celebrate Jewish holidays. I wish the presents didn't have to be a part of it, because rightfully, they shouldn't be; but I feel bad taking things away from the girls. We are all, MooGoo included, now very happy being a Jewish family. Yes, we are still holding on to some things, like the tree and the socks, but I have a feeling they will fade out over time. MooGoo still puts out a few Christmas items from his childhood but he is more Jewish than anything else, and yes, he belives in Gd now just not the New Testament accounting.

Anyway, we love crafting and decorating the house with our crafts. This year we made some pictures which I talked about in a previous post. We also used some of our sukkah decorations to hang around the house and made a simple dreidel decoration. My favorite is the envelope ribbon. I took 8 small envelopes and decorated them each with one letter from the word Chanukah and threaded them on a long ribbon. Inside each envelope I put a note card with an activity on it. Some examples are "Movie and Popcorn" and "Family Game Night". Each night we picked a card and did the activity. MooGoo wants to spoil the girls on holidays and birthdays but I did have another idea for these cards. Rather than give gifts you can come up with a list, as a family, of small gifts or activities that you could do each night. For example; one night you can give eachother home-made gifts, the second night can be family game night, the third can be a scavenger hunt for the kids (maybe the prize at the end could be a large dreidel pinata filled with candy). I'm sure you get my point. You can do a mixture of gifts and activities that everyone will enjoy. As long as you do them together as a family, that is the important part.

The only thing I would suggest doing in the future is either tying bows or knots between the envelopes to keep them from sliding together. Otherwise, I think it was very pretty and I plan to use it again next year.

To the right is the tree. You can't really tell in this photo but it is white with blue and silver balls and a royal blue cloth wrapped around the base.

The stars are from our sukkah. They are cut out and decorated with glitter pen. We glued a clothes pin to the back of each. This helped us with decorating the sukkah. We strung a ribbon through each clothes pin to hang it from the posts between our family room and living room.

The other side on the posts are just simple driedle shapes cut out and decorated with glitter pen. We then strung them on ribbon and hung them up. Cute and simple.

Most of our other holiday decorations are store bought so I won't waste the space here. All in all we are quite decorated and had a lot of fun with it.

One last thing; when Christmas is over don't forget to go get some strings of lights on sale for your sukkah. They are a great way to decorate and add some light outside and they sometimes go on sale for more than half off after Christmas. Don't be afraid to use garland and other Christmas decorations in your sukkah as well. I used gold garland this year and it was very pretty. I plan to pick up more in other colors for this year (Hebrew year). Also, look out for Thanksgiving decorations that are on sale and other fall items as they are perfect for Sukkot.

I love that Sukkot is after the summer too. I always look out for sales on summer items like lanterns and outdoor deocorations and furniture. They also sell fun outside dishes and table wear that is perfect for Sukkot.

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