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The Middle Holiday Syndrome

Posted on: December 2nd, 2013 by bubbyjoysandoys 8 Comments

Enjoyed this? Share it, and attribute it. Copyright 2014, Bubby Joys and Oys, M. Hendeles

Recently, I read an article about how Chanukah has become “merchandised” and “Christmasized.” The blogger, Nina Badzin, describes Chanukah as a relatively to-the-point holiday where we eat potato pancakes and donuts, give presents, light the menorah, sing beautiful songs, and say some special prayers. In her article she expresses how she cherishes Chanukah. And she observes with some displeasure,  that these days, folks (mostly stores and businesses)  tend to over-sensationalize the holiday with extra decorations and fussy products,  as if to “compete” with Christmas.

I agree with Nina. I don’t like competition.  I – as a Jewish person and as a women — like to be myself, do my own thing, what I know and believe to be correct, and do it all as best as I can.

You see, I am a Middle Child. There’s my confession.

I am the 4th child out of my parents’ 6 children. I’ve noted that  birth order studies have shown that  middle children don’t know quite where they belong.

And this may apply to me.

Am I from the older ones in my family, or am I one of my parents’ little ones? Am I talented and creative as I viewed my big sister and brothers, or cute and funny like my younger sibs?

So, as middle children tend to do, after trying to people please, conform, strive for approval and so forth, I decided once and for all that it just isn’t worth it.

I went and carved my own niche in my family, community, and career.

Today, I find that I’m mirroring those middle-child-perceptions in my middle age, and seeing other things through that lens.

Right now Jewish people are celebrating Chanukah, the eight-day Festival of Lights holiday commemorating the miracle of the menorah (candelabra).  The miracle that while there was only enough oil to light the Temple’s menorah for one day, it lasted for eight days.

But this year, Chanukah and all its light-filled glory has been oiled down. Chanukah is sandwiched  between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and has even had to share – or double as Thanksgiving (hence, Thanksgivvukah)  for one day.

Now I’m all for sharing, giving, loving, cooperation, and all that stuff. Ultimately, everything we have is from God and we should be sharing what we are blessed to have. I’m also not for being a bully or a snob.  I love my religion, but respect and have good friends from other religions and nationalities as well.

I actually enjoy the Christmas music in department stores (I’m a music lover! All music has value to me!) , and marvel at the warm and cozy aura conveyed through the holiday of Thanksgiving as well as Christmas celebrations and decorations that abound all over the city

Still, certain aspects of this Thanksgivvukah business has been frustrating for me.

There were meals that combined potato latkes and sweet potato pancakes. Pumpkins and Latkes. Menorahs and Turkeys. Pilgrims and Jews.

Some people opted the first night of Chanukah to simply celebrate Thanksgiving and never mind Chanukah. Yea, they lit the first candle, but hey we still have seven more candles to make a fuss. Let’s just focus on Thanksgiving today.

Come on, couldn’t Thanksgiving fall on the second or third day of Chanukah? Why the first day? The most exciting, seminal day of our holiday which we celebrate by lighting the first candle?

And so, after pondering this for a few days, here’s what I’ve decided:

That’s life. We live in a big wide world, and it’s not all about me.

Even if Chanukah’s first day won’t collide with Thanksgiving for another 79,000 years (I actually don’t remember the exact number), it doesn’t matter. And whether Christmas overlaps with Chanukah or visa versa in future years, it really doesn’t matter.

What really matters is what we think and know about our own religions. How we as individuals experience each day of our lives, within our cultures.

I guess it goes back to the identity of the middle child. We have to just be ourselves, comfortable in our own skins, identities and our own religions. Not worry about other people’s opinions, and not judge others either.

A tall order for a past middle child, or for that matter anyone, no matter where he or she is in the birth order of the family.

I’d love to hear what my readers have to say on this topic. Do you ever feel usurped by another religion, culture or person? How has your birth order in your family affected those feelings for you?

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8 Responses

  1. I liked how Chanukah and Thanksgiving converged — it was fun to plan food, an excuse to give gifts, and loved all the candles. The fact that it won’t converge again for about 70,000 years makes it fascinating. I’m the oldest of 4, my husband is the middle and I can’t claim anything about birth order. Fun to theorize, but frankly, I’ve seen too many examples where the stereotype isn’t correct. But it’s still fun!

    • OmaOrBubby says:

      Yes, Lisa! It is a lot of fun, especially all the social media back and forth about it. Theorizing is a lot a fun, but as my husband likes to say – “all generalizations are false!” So there goes all mine and others’ theorizing. Glad you had fun with the combined holidays. I loved the term “Thanksgivvukah!” I wonder who made that up!

  2. Nina Badzin says:

    So clever! Yes, Hanukkah was like the middle child this year. Thanks so much for pointing to my article, too.

  3. Rivki Silver says:

    Even as the oldest (is that an obvious thing? I don’t know), I have to remind myself not to worry about what others think. Sometimes in the birth order of my extended family (as in, related through marriage), I can feel a little dwarfed. It depends on who I’m talking to and who knows who. I never thought about it in birth order terms, but, yeah, I’ve experienced a little of that sometimes. Interesting!

    • OmaOrBubby says:

      I can totally relate to what you say about feeling overshadowed around certain more dominating people. (and I’m not an oldest as you are but it makes sense)… I guess it does depend on the setting, and probably doesn’t always apply to every person all the time….. Such a great point.

  4. Great piece! I’m the youngest with two much older brothers. I was raised almost as an only. My brothers teased me mercilessly when I was a toddler — years of therapy, I tell them. I envied their close relationship with my dad, watching him teach them to work on auto engines, or repair plumbing or electrical issues. I was always treated as the helpless baby. So when I grew up I was determined to find a job where I could earn at least as much as my brothers – to prove (to whom? myself?) that I was equal to them. But I forgot one minor detail… I never really knew how much they earned! So I continued to advance in my career. It wasn’t until I retired that I discovered I earned more than either of them. It’s probably better that I never knew their salaries. I might not have tried as hard to advance.

    • OmaOrBubby says:

      Wow, Camille. Thanks for sharing that. You definitely were pretty hard on yourself in order to measure up (in your own eyes – as you astutely say) to your big brothers…. sounds like it worked out for you and you’re so accomplished now… Regarding not knowing the salaries, my husband always says that it’s best not to know what other people earn for many reasons…your story is one case in point..

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