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What are your thoughts--Hanukkah Bush?

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
I am not even sure how to post this.

Last night, my dh inquired as to us having a decorated tree for the holidays. Yes, we are both Jewish. Dh is actually converted and grew up with a tree, though it didn't have any religious symbols on it and it wasn't a religious symbol to them.

To me , the tree was something other people do. I have always admired them. I nicely decorated tree is very beautiful. There is something nice about the lights and the ornaments .

The tree he is talking about wouldn't be decorated with any traditionally Christian symbols, but more Hanukkah type items.

I am curious about thoughts on this issue.
post #2 of 26
You already know my thoughts, am sure.

But will type just one of them: Mixed message.
post #3 of 26
I am Jewish with hubby and two sons. I wouldn't put a Hannukah bush in my home. I love the Hanukah traditions... the menorah, dreidel, etc. I see a tree or "bush" type of decoration as an xmas decoration / tradition. Do what you feel comfortable with, but that's my opinion.
post #4 of 26
Thread Starter 
merpk, yup, I knew what you were going to say.

I, too, think it would be confusing. We have ALWAYS decorated for Hanukkah in tghis house. I mean, I really try to do it well. We have a door hanging, wall hangings, tons of menorahs, driedels, lights shaped like driedels.

I feel a little blindsided and in shock by this request. I am still not sure of my decision.
post #5 of 26
I don't have anything to contribute from a Jewish standpoint, but the "Christmas" tree isn't entirely (or originally) Christian. Pagan cultures have long used evergreens to celebrate the fact that life exists even in the barren winter.

post #6 of 26
AnnaReilly is correct that the "Christmas" tree is not of Christian origin. It is a pagan custom decried by the prophets:

Jeremiah 10:2 Thus saith the LORD, Learn not the way of the heathen, and be not dismayed at the signs of heaven; for the heathen are dismayed at them. 3 For the customs of the people are vain: for one cutteth a tree out of the forest, the work of the hands of the workman, with the axe. 4 They deck it with silver and with gold; they fasten it with nails and with hammers, that it move not.

Why not just string strands of white lights around the house? We do that every year.
post #7 of 26
Sure the tree started out with pagan roots... but no one drives by a house with a tree in the window and says: "lovely pagan tree"

It's a CHRISTMAS tree! Yup, it's a secular symbol but it says TO ME "look a Christian family lives there"

I have no idea what it says to Jewish kids in the household, but it certainly doesn't say "I'm proud to be Jewish"


(and fwiw, most Christians end up thinking the tree's a pain in the butt anyway!)
post #8 of 26
Awww, man,

And I was all geared up to read something funny about W putting his foot in mouth over Hannukah.

post #9 of 26
Another ix-nay vote for the Hannuka bush. I agree with the poster that says that it may have started out pagan (and for that matter, do you really want to embrace paganism in your Jewish home either?) but it is a Christian symbol today. Find what to embrace in being Jewish and maybe help a Christian friend/family put up a tree and share their tradition with them rather than trying to co-opt something and make it pseudo-Jewish.
post #10 of 26
I'll add another very negative no-way to the mix. Like was said before, a tree is something that translated into celebrating Christmas, no matter what the origins. Why do it?

We do major decorating with the sukkah - lights, hangy things, the whole 9 yards. Chanukah is about putting the menorahs in the window! Although, at one point we had dreidels that lit up..hmm, wonder where those went...

Just my $.02
post #11 of 26
There's probably nothing "Christian" about a tree, a bush, lights, etc.,. Other than the fact that most people do see such decorations as Christmas traditions, not pagan or non demoninational ones.

I used to be really jealous of my neighbors who had lights up, but my parents wouldn't hear of putting lights on our house. I suggested blue and white lights, just white, just blue, they said no. (I never wanted a tree, but I always thought they were beautiful and loved visiting friends who had them)

My father finally sat me down and explained that an important part of being Jewish in a gentile neighborhood is being different. He said we should be proud of having a house without lights, and that people driving by wouldn't be fooled into thinking we weren't Jews, or worse, that people driving by or visiting who knew we were Jews would think it was ok for Jews to put up lights on their house. He explained what a small minority of the population we actually were, and warned me of assimilation. We compromised by getting an electric menorah to put in the window, because my mom wouldn't put candles in the window, she thought it would start a fire.

That's just my dad's perspective, but it always made sense to me. Would it bother you if people saw your tree and thought you were gentiles? Or thought it was a tradition for Jews to decorate a tree? What will the tree signify to your family? Honestly, I can't understand the appeal of having a tree cut down to bring into my house to shed in my living room. And when I visit people that have trees, my kids drive me crazy by wanting to touch all the ornaments, eat the lead-filled tinsel, etc.,. I usually can't wait to leave! But that's me.

We had a wall in our house that we hung all the kid's artwork on. After Thanksgiving it became a Chanukah wall and we'd paint a huge menorah on a sheet to hang up. We'd paint a new flame each night, and all their Chanukah artwork from school would go up there, and pictures of us making latkes or sufganiyot would be hung there. I guess you could hang similar things on a tree, and who could say one is better than the other?? I don't think there's a right or wrong answer. But something in me thinks it's un-Jewish to decorate greenery in your house at the holidays.

Good luck with your decision!
post #12 of 26
I have a tiny and funny aside to this. One of my nieces' birthdays is the day before Christmas Eve and she had a friend who didn't celebrate Christmas. This girl came to the birthday party every year and she was convinced that the tree at my niece's house was a birthday tree and she always asked to have a birthday tree on her birthday too.
post #13 of 26
my grandma always called Jews "los que no tienen arboles--" "those who don't have trees."
post #14 of 26
Tangent ...

Andie, I had "tree envy," too, growing up. And I grew up in very Jewish (nonobservant) suburbia. Maybe a dozen houses with trees in the neighborhood. My best friend growing up (and she still is ) was the house I went to for tree decorating (she's Catholic). They had a running joke to "watch out, Amy's coming over today," because I was such a klutz and invariably either stepped on a stray ornament or even knocked down the tree (Really, I did that. Tripped on some string of lights or something and wham, right into it. Totally unintentional. Just totally klutzy.)


Have nice memories of it. But those memories are of her (the friend's) family tree, not mine. A huge mental and internal and emotional and identificational difference.
post #15 of 26
You could do up one of your bushes outside (okay, that sounded really funny to me 'cuz according to dh I live in the gutter).

Ya know, hang lovely Jewish symbols and the like. Make symbols and ornaments for your bush (he he, ha ha ha, I can't take it anymore) and hang them there. On your bush. Outside. :LOL

That way, there would be no "assimilation" by doing an indoor tree with lights and the like... just a lovely, living thing covered in symbols of culture and religion.
post #16 of 26
On a side note I think it's important to keep the integrity of both holidays within a family that shares both traditions.

We have a Christmas tree and all the other decorations in the Living Room and keep our Hannukah stuff (menorah and dreidles, and Star of David decorations) in the Dining Room.

In our home the two holidays co-exist peacefully in seperate rooms. No Hannukah Bush and no dreidles (or latkes for that matter) hanging from our tree.

Debra Baker
post #17 of 26
Thread Starter 
I am so glad everyone has chimed in. I even spoke with my sister last night who has the same problem. She feels the same way as I do, but she did the tree. They have tons of Hanukkah decorations in their house, this tree with blue and white lights. They have a sign on their front door that says Ho Ho Ho, Happy Hanukkah. I thought that

This morning our son was on his way to preschool and said that he can't wait for Hanukkah and to go to Grandma at the Farm's house to see her tree and to see the presents under it.

I'll be back to talk more later. I have to get some work done now that I'm back at work :
post #18 of 26
Yeah, I definitely agree with the other posters that it would be too confusing. Growing up, when I heard of someone having a hanukkah bush it was like - wow, they're really *not* Jewish.

I think it's just that it's so easy to be influenced by our surrounding culture during December. Though it's a few months earlier, Sukkah decorating is really an equivalent (though not all Jews decorate their sukkas, either) and you can get the Xmas decorations 50% off the last week of December and save them for the year.

Alternately, as mentioned by others, try to find other meaningful things in Hanukkah and do it up with those. Since it *is* the festival of lights, I don't see why having extra lights around the house wouldn't be a problem. The way we do it is just having as many menorahs as we can.

Then again, there's nothing wrong with driving around town and looking at the lights, or going to Rockefeller Center to see the tree. In my mind, at least.
post #19 of 26
As a Christian, I'd think you were a Christian if I saw a tree in your house. However, I used to work in Holiday Lane (the totally obnoxious Christmas department of Macy's) during Christmastime in college, and there was once a woman who was doing an entire tree in Hannukah decorations. She asked me to help her find *more of the blue and silver or blue and white ornaments*. She even bought a box of Hannukah chocolates to use as the star on her tree. I asked her if she was doing a Hannukah tree, and she said, *No, honey, I'm doing a Dallas Cowboys tree*. :LOL So, obviously, the whole idea is already confusing to some...
post #20 of 26
I agree with the no votes in this thread. Symbols are powerful things that stick in the minds of children. When I was a child, my parents let me help trim the tree at my babysitter's house down the street. It was something fun I really looked forward to. But...it was clear that I was getting the opportunity to participate in Someone Else's holiday from a cross-cultural sort of perspective, NOT making their holiday my own. We have so many beautiful holidays of our own that we can teach our children about. IMHO when people feel pride and security in who they are they are better able to interact with others in a kind, non-judgmental way. A Hannuka bush or taking on other symbols associated with Christmas to me sends the message that being Jewish isn't quite good enough on its own.
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