The holidays loom ahead for many. I totally understand this and I remember the first Christmas after my divorce. We had agreed that the children would spend it with their Dad – Christmas eve until Boxing Day. I remember how we both spent too much money on presents that year.
I had already celebrated Chanukah for 8 days with my daughters. I had invited people over for a latke dinner. I gave the girls a little gift each night and we lit the candles. It didn’t compete with the Christmas hype but it was a tradition that I was determined to grow in my home. I decided that I would no longer celebrate Christmas. I was going to leave Christmas and all the traditions with their father. We had always celebrated both Jewish and Christian holidays in our home. In my house, we would only have Jewish traditions. I had to learn to accept that and let the rest go.
I was genuinely tired – working full-time as a retail manager in a large chain store and raising two young children. I had custody and their father had them every other Thursday and every other weekend. Those Christmas breaks were times when I could just be at home with only myself to think of. The world around was closed and there was no where I had to go. I wanted to eat turkey so I bought delicious turkey wings, sweet potatoes, green beans and whatever else caught my fancy. A simple meal cooked in a roasting pan. I watched Christmas movies on tv, walked our dog and really rested.
Over the years, sometimes others were around but I always kept Christmas day as low key as possible. 35 years later, it has become a tradition, my tradition……..I am at home, I am alone and I am delighting in my own company and indulging myself in rest and relaxation. It feels holy and sacred and it is mine.
I moved to London at 20 years old with my new husband. My brother was in university there when we arrived but left for good just a few months later. We made new friends through our work and we celebrated every holiday Jewish and Christian. We invited new friends for meals and we were happy with whoever came. We made our own traditions and this continued to be my way long after we divorced. I never felt cheated that we didn’t have family or whatever else people say is missing. I, we, made the best with what we had.
I encourage people to do the same – gather up other holiday orphans and celebrate. Maybe everyone is busy on Christmas day so have a dinner on a different day. Create your own traditions or like me celebrate you! My own children still celebrate Christmas with their partners and with their in-laws as well as their father. Chanukah this year fell over the busy days of Christmas so we celebrated Chanukah early. A gathering with people who love you anytime is more than enough for me. Like we say at Passover, Dayenu – it is enough. No matter what you do- be kind and patient with you. You deserve it.