NYT Motherlode: An Overdose of Christmas Leads to a Bigger Hanukkah

“We definitely aren’t in Kansas anymore,” I told my husband. I was showing him “Jesus’ Christmas Party,” the school library book my daughter brought home in early December.

By Kansas, I meant Israel. I lived there for more than 20 years and my two children were born in Jerusalem. This summer, we moved our family to Luxembourg, where my husband had a job with the European Union.

I knew our Jewishness would have to evolve when we moved. Or rather, I knew we wouldn’t be Jewish unless I actually made an effort, something I didn’t have to do in Israel where the children dress up in costumes for Purim instead of on Halloween.

Now my children attend a European school with academic tracks in eight different languages. Though it’s a secular institution, December is Christmas month. There is no American-style attempt at inclusion. No menorahs are lit in the school windows. No Mawlid sweets are given out. Come late November, it’s all Christmas all the time. This is a first for my children. As I drove them home one day after the Noel season began, my 8-year-old son started singing a famous Christmas song he was learning at school. He stopped in the middle of the lyrics to ask my 4-year-old daughter, “Do you recall the most famous reindeer of all?”

“Yes,” she said confidently. “It’s Sven!”

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