Christmas, Hanukkah or Apocalypse?

A ‘December Dilemma’ for Jewish Parents

Holiday Mashup!: It’s so hard for the little ones to understand how the holiday season can include dreidls, Santa and the fulminating epicenter of universal destruction.
image courtesy of Yaluk the lightning god and mayan pantheon pr
Holiday Mashup!: It’s so hard for the little ones to understand how the holiday season can include dreidls, Santa and the fulminating epicenter of universal destruction.

By Rob Kutner

Published March 06, 2012, issue of March 09, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share

If you’re a Jewish parent like me, you always dread December. There’s the relentless onslaught of Christmas carols and decorations. The perpetual question of, “Do I try to compete and distort Hanukkah, or honor the holiday but nonpluss my kids?” And, worst of all for a Jew, there’s all that wintertime indoor-heat chafing.

But this year brings an added wrinkle: The Mayan Calendar’s prediction that December 21, 2012, will be the end of the world. And if you think Jews aren’t taking it seriously, why is 8 Tevet 5773 the last date listed on my “Ungerman Brothers Funeral Home” fridge magnet calendar?

For a Jewish parent, there’s just no easy answer to why a bunch of long-dead people who once lived near the Club Med we once vacationed at with Aunt Gertie say we’re all going to die. This despite the valiant efforts of a recent slew of PJ Library titles: “The Giant Fiery Dreidel From Space,” “Soon We’ll All Be Tsimmes,” “Sammy the Spider Is Wiped Out Instantaneously, Along With All Life on Earth.”

However, because I’m the type of Jewish parent you all hate — with boundless time and energy and a complete abnegation of self — I’m turning the apocalypse into an “apocalyptunity” for my kids.

It starts with Jewish/End-Time art projects. We’re decorating our family’s fallout shelter with pictures of all the things we’ll be glad no longer to have to deal with: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad; next year’s day school invoice; those last two hours of Yom Kippur, where the head of everyone around you looks like a Pepperidge Farm Mint Milano.

Our global annihilation is also fertile soil for instilling Jewish pride — mostly through the elimination of Jewish shame. No more exhausting Hebrew school carpool conversations with the kids about why we Jews are different — now we’re getting the same treatment as everyone else! Even better, it’s the first global calamity no one can blame on Israel.

Speaking of which, now there’s really never been a better time to visit Israel with the family. What’s the point of saying “It’s a dangerous time” when that’s true of the entire year 2012? And if you thought Birthright buses were filled with teens hooking up like there’s no tomorrow before…

Finally, di groyse oysreynikung, the great cleanout, is the perfect time to make peace with our limitations as Jewish parents. No more worries that every second we let them watch “Spongebob” is dropping them down the acceptance list to Princeton. No more anxiety that all our parenting flaws will one day be portrayed in an angry novel, or haunting fears that our parents’ questions of, “Oh, you’re letting her eat that?” are actually legitimate. No more judgment that we don’t “walk the talk” Jewishly enough for our kids.

Because let’s face it: Come December 21, we’re going to all keep Shabbat like nobody’s business.


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!
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • “People at archives like Yad Vashem used to consider genealogists old ladies in tennis shoes. But they have been impressed with our work on indexing documents. Now they are lining up to work with us." This year's Jewish Genealogical Societies conference took place in Utah. We got a behind-the-scenes look:
  • What would Maimonides say about Warby Parker's buy-one, give-one charity model?
  • 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.