Tis the season

The holiday season hasn't changed much over the years for my family and I; even at 20, I gather around our flameless menorah with my family for the start of the holiday season.

My dad is Jewish and my mom is Catholic; as a result, we've always celebrated both Chanukah and Christmas, often within mere days of each other. 

This year, right after my parents helped me lug my suitcases in from the car, we all gathered around our little cloth-and-velcro menorah for the last night of Chanukah.

Yeah, cloth and velcro. What can I say, some traditions don't die.  When I was little, my parents found it unwise to keep an open flame around a toddler who could knock it over at any minute.  They somehow stumbled upon the fabric menorah, complete with multicolored cloth candles and little velcro flames to stick on top of one every night.

Years after I first learned to crawl, my parents held onto the cloth menorah.  At first, it was because my little sister came along. After her came our dog, and then our cats.  At this point, we've run out of any excuses for keeping it, so let's just go with tradition.

There have been years where Chanukah hasn't lined up so neatly with Christmas: years when, after returning from Christmas dinner at my grandma's house, we gathered in our stocking-adorned living room to “light” another candle.  This year, luckily, is not one of those years; the day after Chanukah ended, the menorah came down from the mantle and the stockings went up.  The same day, we went looking for a tree.

I'm not sure how we always manage to pick the rainiest day of December to go tree shopping, but the tradition certainly continued this year.  The tree lots we stopped at were the same ones we've been going to since I was little; I still remember hiding in the rows of pine needles, pretending to be lost in a forest with my little sister.  Not so much this year.

With the first lot mostly sold out, we headed to a second one down the road, where their final trees were leaning against the building's exterior, waiting to be picked up.  When I was little, my family's pickiness was fun; it was, in my mind, our prerogative to save the best tree from the lonely garden center lot by giving it a temporary home at our house.

At this point, the novelty of standing out in the rain, comparing needles and branches from one tree to the next, had run thin.  Still, it's hard to completely banish that deep-seated anticipatory feeling one gets after finally deciding on a Christmas tree.

This weekend's going to be a hectic one; tomorrow, my sister and I decorate the tree now standing in our living room.  My big sister comes home the next day for her birthday and, from there on out, I can't help but see a lot of hectic, last minute gift shopping in my future.  It's all a little overwhelming after just returning from school, but I'll take a busy break over a boring one any day.