What are your thoughts--Hanukkah Bush? - Mothering Forums
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#1 of 26 Old 11-29-2004, 11:53 AM - Thread Starter
 
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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.
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#2 of 26 Old 11-29-2004, 02:09 PM
 
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You already know my thoughts, am sure.

But will type just one of them: Mixed message.
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#3 of 26 Old 11-29-2004, 02:24 PM
 
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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.
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#4 of 26 Old 11-29-2004, 02:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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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.
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#5 of 26 Old 11-29-2004, 03:12 PM
 
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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.

http://www.religioustolerance.org/xmas_tree.htm
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#6 of 26 Old 11-29-2004, 03:29 PM
 
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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.
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#7 of 26 Old 11-29-2004, 05:32 PM
 
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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"

EMBRACE HANUKA!!

(and fwiw, most Christians end up thinking the tree's a pain in the butt anyway!)
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#8 of 26 Old 11-29-2004, 07:27 PM
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Awww, man,

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

db
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#9 of 26 Old 11-29-2004, 07:32 PM
 
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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.
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#10 of 26 Old 11-29-2004, 08:12 PM
 
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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
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#11 of 26 Old 11-29-2004, 09:40 PM
 
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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!

"Home is where the heart is, no matter how the heart lives." - PP&M
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#12 of 26 Old 11-29-2004, 10:42 PM
 
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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.
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#13 of 26 Old 11-29-2004, 11:55 PM
 
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my grandma always called Jews "los que no tienen arboles--" "those who don't have trees."
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#14 of 26 Old 11-30-2004, 01:57 AM
 
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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.)

Sigh.

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.
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#15 of 26 Old 11-30-2004, 02:07 AM
 
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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.
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#16 of 26 Old 11-30-2004, 11:22 AM
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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.

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#17 of 26 Old 11-30-2004, 11:45 AM - Thread Starter
 
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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 :
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#18 of 26 Old 12-01-2004, 07:57 PM
 
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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.

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#19 of 26 Old 12-02-2004, 04:25 AM
 
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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...

Anne wife to Phil & mama to Katie
Velvet Blue ::: Seattle Baby/Child/Family Portraits
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#20 of 26 Old 12-03-2004, 02:48 AM
 
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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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Mom to two daughters born in 1997 and 2000
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#21 of 26 Old 12-03-2004, 03:25 AM
 
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Quote:
It's a CHRISTMAS tree! Yup, it's a secular symbol but it says TO ME "look a Christian family lives there"
I am Pagan and I have never associated a Xmas tree in a house as it being a Christian family, nor does anyone I know associate it with Christianity. An Xmas tree is more part of the commercialism that the season is than belonging to any religion anymore.
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#22 of 26 Old 12-03-2004, 12:42 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CarrieMF
I am Pagan and I have never associated a Xmas tree in a house as it being a Christian family, nor does anyone I know associate it with Christianity.
I agree. If they do, they are misguided and uninformed. Having an evergreen tree in the home at Yule reflects a northern culture's desire to bring life into a season where everything seems to be dead.

As I see it (correct me if I am wrong), Jews desire a connection to their middle eastern roots, where there is no need for this particular kind of seasonal tradition. I agree, Sukkot (a harvest festival, right?) is a more important seasonal reflection for people from a warmer climate. If that is more meaningful to you (along with Channukah) than an identification with the northern climate you actually live in, go with that. Of course, if one is a very "liberal" Jew (Reform?), you may have a more easygoing attitude? Again, correct me if I am wrong. This is what I have picked up from Jewish friends and those married to pagans or atheists or otherwise.

Quote:
An Xmas tree is more part of the commercialism that the season is than belonging to any religion anymore.
I disagree. IMO, a tree is a way for many, Christian, Pagan or atheist (as my parents were and are) to celebrate the change of season and bring light and life to a dark, hard and frozen landscape. They smell delicious, they look beautiful and the traditional ritual of bringing out the boxes of heirloom decorations are important for family unity and identity.

Even the frustration with burnt out and tangled strings of lights is part of the tradition, like it or not! LOL

The idea that the tree is Xtian is just a reflection of the church's insidiously clever desire and ability to syncretize to spread the religion to other cultures.

IME, few people hate their tree. Some neatniks, like my Scroogy sister, like to get it down as soon as possible, but kids love the tree, and the parents love it for their sake!

Meowee quoted this, which I provide in an updated translation (the use of the word "heathen" seemed incongruous to me):


Jer 10:2 ...Do not learn the way of the nations, nor be dismayed at the signs of the heavens, because the nations are dismayed at them,
Jer 10:3 for the customs of the peoples are false. A tree from the forest is cut down, and worked with an axe by the hands of a craftsman.
Jer 10:4 Men deck it with silver and gold; they fasten it with hammer and nails so that it cannot move.

These verses refer to a carved image of a god/dess and not to an evergreen tree. Obvious, as it goes on to say:

Jer 10:5 Their idols are like scarecrows in a cucumber field, and they cannot speak; they have to be carried, for they cannot walk. Be not afraid of them, for they cannot do evil, neither is it in them to do good.
Jer 10:8 They are both stupid and foolish; the instruction of idols is but wood!
Jer 10:9 Beaten silver is brought from Tarshish, and gold from Uphaz. They are the work of the craftsman and of the hands of the goldsmith; their clothing is violet and purple; they are all the work of skilled men.

[OT: It bugs me when the prophets imply that those abominable goyim are worshipping a hunk of wood. Oh well, everyone is entitled to their opinion. The sacred scripture of every culture is ethnocentric, with few exceptions.]
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#23 of 26 Old 12-03-2004, 01:08 PM
 
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Daryl, I agree that the tree has significant spiritual/famiy traditions but it is becoming more and more commercialized. The fake trees are coming out in more colors(red, blue, yellow, pink, Barbie). Every year there seems to be more tree decorations that are connected to some commercialized event/place.
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#24 of 26 Old 12-03-2004, 02:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Wow! I so deeply appreciate all the responses to my original post.

I have always felt that this was a difficult time of year. I love it and hate it at the same time.

I love the way the lights that people hang shimmer in the snow, how festive things are, and people are having all kinds of fun events.

I don't like having stores and radio stations jamming the Christmas holiday down everyone's throats 24/7 starting before Thanksgiving. Even my Christian friends are annoyed by this. Some people can be downright mean at this time of year especially when it is shopping time.

As a child, my parents did the best they could to make us feel like our holidays were important. But, honestly, we grew up in an area where there were few Jewish families. We were the only Jews in our entire neighborhood. The closest Jewish family was a mile away. I always felt left out and different. I see this very visibly in my son these days. EVERYTHING at his school is geared to Christmas. There are tons of decorations up already. Santa is paying a visit to give the kids a special toy in a couple of weeks. They have all decorated stockings and they are hung in their room. When we say that Santa doesn't come to our house, he says that he tried to be a good boy all year. He practically cries. We do associate with our Synagogue, but that isn't enough. We don't know many other Jewish families with children our son's age. Those that we do know at Synagogue, well, let's just say that we don't exactly feel welcome when we are around.

I know this time of year is also difficult for my dh. He has tried to be a good Jewish father, but honestly, while he has a deep spirituality, he has come to the realization that organized religion doesn't quite fit him. Some of his happiest memories are around this time of year when they put up the tree. It really makes him happy.

We are trying to give our son a Jewish upbringing. But, honestly, I don't think we are doing a good job of it. We are trying, but it is hard.
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#25 of 26 Old 12-03-2004, 03:55 PM
 
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i think your SCHOOL is a bigger problem than a tree!!

egads.. is that a public school?


and i, too,grew up in a Christian community (4 jewish kids in a graduating class of 700) it made me feel different....in a SPECIAL way

you can do it!
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#26 of 26 Old 12-03-2004, 04:55 PM - Thread Starter
 
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lerlerler, it is his preschool/daycare. There are window clings everywhere, a light up gingerbread house in the entry, and other decorations. It is a place that has many ethnic groups and is very diverse. I know that not everyone celebrates Christmas here.

During Hanukkah, they will have a Rabbi come in and talk about the holiday and have their own celebration for at least one day. Last year I provided gelt and dreidels for the kids. I have decided if it is in this year's budget though.
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