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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.
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?
Tags: birth order, Chanukah, Christmas, competition, finding one's niche, identity crisis, middle child syndrome, religious identity, sharing, Thanksgivvukah