Sisterhood Blog

The Christmas/Hanukkah Card Conundrum

By Johnna Kaplan

  • Print
  • Share Share
Thinkstock

Throughout high school, college and my early twenties, I exchanged holiday cards with my friends every year. Christians got Christmas cards, Jews got Hanukkah cards, and Christians-slash-Jews got semi-humorous cards about celebrating two holidays at once. I never thought to not send cards; that was just what well-behaved girls did, like wearing slips under skirts.

And then, at some point, the exchanges stopped. I can’t identify exactly when it was, but there must have been a November when I walked past a Papyrus store and, for the first time, for some reason, did not go inside. Simultaneously, it seemed, neither a result of my behavior nor the cause of it, I stopped receiving cards, too.

I think in part it was because the further from childhood my friends and I got, Christmas grew in importance while Hanukkah returned to its rightful place as a minor holiday. Now that we were grown-ups, the Christmas-celebrators had to figure out how to fit live trees into their apartments and purchase grand and often difficult-to-source presents for each member of their extended families. The non-Christmas-celebrators got to look on in bemusement and eat latkes.

Sure, we might call or email or text each other a holiday greeting, but between adults, does anyone really expect Jews to send Christmas cards? I hope not. Do any Jews expect to receive Hanukkah cards? I doubt it.

There was another aspect to the end of my card tradition. In sending those cards in youth, my friends and I were in some sense practicing for the time when we’d be the social head of a family – when we’d be our mothers. My mom always sent, and still sends, boxes of little gifts to her friends’ children and their children. I remember her accumulating those gifts throughout the year and storing them away in the hall closet, pulling them out in December and creating festive bundles to be taken to the post office.

But she was, and is, communicating from one family to another. Reaching adulthood without a husband or children of my own, I realized I was not expected to carry on this organizational tour de force. I was only expected to do, well, whatever it is that the world erroneously imagines single women do, like go to fancy parties and climb the corporate ladder and stare forlornly at the lone carrot and bottle of wine in my fridge. My friends with children have them to concentrate on now, and the few cards I receive come from the adult recipients of my mom’s packages; they come to me as a loosely attached branch of a family, as my parents’ child.

At this stage in my life, continuing to participate in this tradition of Christian families would seem odd. And let’s face it: The holiday season is a pain. Nice cards aren’t cheap. (Unless you make them, which I did a few times, but no one appreciates that you’ve painstakingly glued glitter onto craft paper as much as magazines claim they will.) Classifying which friends get cards and which don’t is fraught with potential peril. And who keeps track of physical addresses anymore?

And so, I am blissfully free of winter obligations. When strangers’ small talk turns to braving crowded malls and putting up decorations and lying to the children about Santa, I can smile and say, “Oh, I don’t have kids, and anyway I’m Jewish, so luckily I’m spared all that!”

This feels a bit mean sometimes, but it’s true; except for quickly changing the radio station each time “Last Christmas” comes on and rolling my eyes as the world turns red and green and sparkly, I can slip through the season happily unencumbered by pressure. (Not to mention shopping bags full of presents.)

But I wonder if, when I dropped the card-sending habit, I inadvertently derailed myself from some invisible track. What if, in opting out of this social nicety, I’ve made myself ineligible for the family life it represents? No one wears slips under skirts anymore, and thank goodness for that. But somehow abandoning shiny sentiments enclosed in thick envelopes with holiday stamps gives me pause.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: sisterhood, jewish women, holiday cards, hanukkah, christmas, chanukah

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Is anti-Zionism the new anti-Semitism?
  • "I thought I was the only Jew on a Harley Davidson, but I was wrong." — Gil Paul, member of the Hillel's Angels. http://jd.fo/g4cjH
  • “This is a dangerous region, even for people who don’t live there and say, merely express the mildest of concern about the humanitarian tragedy of civilians who have nothing to do with the warring factions, only to catch a rash of *** (bleeped) from everyone who went to your bar mitzvah! Statute of limitations! Look, a $50 savings bond does not buy you a lifetime of criticism.”
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.