Growing up, I never had a Christmas tree. Or colored lights. (The electric menorahs seemed like a joke next to houses lit up with Santa and a full set of reindeer.) I imagine I felt a tiny bit deprived, but mostly, I was excited to light the candles and spin the dreidel and get my share of presents. I liked to perpetuate the myth that Jewish kids got eight gifts, one for each night, to make myself feel like Chanukah was indeed a superior holiday.
Now I'm married to a man who isn't Jewish (he's Unitarian, which is kind of as close as Christian gets to Jewish) and he feels strongly that decorating for the holidays is a ritual worth pursuing. And I've discovered that hanging ornaments is a little like looking through old photo albums; you get glimpses of the child you used to be in the homemade painted macaroni ornaments. We don't get a tree, but my husband cuts boughs from the yard, and we adorn them with lights and sparkly spheres. And then I wrapped our forlorn-looking pile of presents in glossy magazine photos. It gave the pile a pop! Have I started a new family Christmas tradition?