MenuForward LogoJoin

December Angst and Hanukkah Manicures

Image: Midrash Manicures

December is a complicated time to be a Jew in America. I annually find that once the holiday season hits full swing, all the Christmas gushing, tree-trimming, “what do you want this year?” asking and red and green everything makes me a little… bah humbug. I start getting more sympathetic to Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge than an Occupy-friendly writer should. But I’m not strictly Scroogish: I frequently vacillate over just how strongly I want to signal my nonparticipation in Christmas. Do I want to say an emphatic “Happy holidays” back to the presumptuous “Merry Christmases,” because I’m in a defiant mood? Usually. Conversely, do I say “Merry Christmas” back to peoples’ gentle “Happy Holidays” if I’m feeling conciliated and ready to grant joy to others in exchange for their acknowledgement of me? Or do I just smile and act aloof about the whole thing overall?

I want it on the record that Christmas is not my tradition or holiday. I get grumpy when the seasonal aisle is all red, but I also laugh at the excesses of those blue, star-of-David displays. I don’t want people making the same kind of fuss over Hanukkah that they do over Christmas; that makes me feel dishonest about a minor holiday. While I dream of my dad’s latkes and enjoy lighting the menorah, I can’t pretend that Hanukkah for us is as huge and insane as Christmas is to our non-Jewish friends. It isn’t. You give each other diamonds and huge toys, at least according to the thousands of commercials I see on TV. We give each other gloves and books. You squeal over fruitcakes and puddings; we say “pass the applesauce” and kvetch about work the next day. (You want to make a giant fuss and give me time off for Passover? Go for it.)

I do get a lot of amusement out the zany things that the competitive winter holiday spirit brings out of enterprising Jews. Very NSFW Hanukkah YouTube videos, high-stakes dreidel contests, and rewritten or new carols: I devour them all. SNL’s “Christmastime for the Jews” is a classic that stays in my head all month. The endless discussion of Jews’ contribution to Christmas carols renders me a bit smug. And now there are nails to compete with the popular trend of Christmas nail bling. This year, one Rabbi has gotten particularly creative with Hanukkah-themed “midrash manicures,” little pieces of nail art that are meant to teach young women about the Jewish holiday. The decals are meant as a tool to impart the stories of the bible, but I kind of like them as a way for adult Jews to subtly rebut Christmas-mania.

At the office Christmas party, you can hold out your hand for more Whiskey and then when people ask about your manicure bling, you say: “oh this?” Then you launch into a lengthy tale of the Maccabees, grin and say “don’t you just love the holidays?” Of course there’s always a chance that someone will fire back by flashing Christmas nail bling in response.

Your Comments

The 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 Forward requires 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 and will be deleted. Egregious commenters will be banned from commenting. 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 Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Share the Sisterhood

Share the Sisterhood

Share the Sisterhood

Close