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Doyle-Schechtman: Putting Up The Tree

12/21/11 5:55PM By Deborah Doyle-Schechtman
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(Host) Commentator Deborah Doyle-Schechtman reflects on this season of light and transformations.

(Doyle-Schechtman) When I was a child there were no menorahs in the windows of our neighborhood. Back then Catholics kids went to Catholic schools and had little interaction with Jewish kids. Each of us had our own religious and cultural customs and traditions that were as sacrosanct as they were exclusionary. Christmas trees and holiday lights were at the top of that list. In our house the tree didn't come through the door until December 23, was decorated sometime after noon on December 24th, and stayed up for the 12 Days of Christmas. By January 6th, the day the Three Kings were thought to have arrived in Bethlehem 2000 years ago, that evergreen was stripped and at the curb.

Spending the better portion of a day both putting on and taking off ornaments was part of our family's holiday ritual. As with most of us, what our families did, we do. I was no exception - even when I married a man whose ancestral background was the polar opposite of mine. Where the Doyles boast strong ties to various religious orders, the Schechtmans claim stalwart connections with rabbinical scholars.

Needless to say, my bid for a Christmas tree didn't initially go well. A solstice tree yes, a Hanukkah bush, maybe, but a Christmas tree was something else entirely. We'd go out and cut a tree together, but the rest was up to me. I'd spend HOURS stringing lights and hanging ornaments by myself, and then HOURS taking them down again. I did my best to learn the finer points of making latkes, to find decent chocolate gelt, and to have gifts for him to open each night after lighting the menorah. We played the dreidel game and he taught me the dreidel song, but I was the only one decorating the tree. Just when I was beginning to wonder if a tree was really worth all the effort, my sister told me a story.

The way I remember it, someone she knew had obtained a fully decorated artificial tree from a department store, which was delivered to his home and placed in the corner next to a closet. He simply plugged in the lights and declared it Christmas. Once the New Year rolled in, he opened said closet and shoved the tree into it. Twelve months later, when the holiday spirit moved him, he opened the closet door, maneuvered the tree to its designated corner, plugged in the lights, and, well you get the idea.

OMG! How perfect! No more schlepping things from the attic. The conversion was immediate. That our little tree, decorated with mementos of our travels, ornaments from friends and family (many with Judaic symbols), and tiny white magical lights could be readily relocated intact - was a revelation ! That it would require both of us to orchestrate the move was icing on the cake!

So tonight we'll light the menorah and the tree - and once again create our own personal Festival of Lights. Chag Sameach. Happy Holidays.
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