Guilt? Gelt? What’s the Difference?
This is not news: Chanukah is a minor Jewish holiday. You knew that, right? The only reason Chanukah has increased in importance is that it happens to fall around the same time of year as the gift-giving extravaganza that Christmas has become. Back in the old days (long before this old broad was born) the gifts children received for Chanukah amounted to a few coins, or gelt. It can’t be pure coincidence that the word “gelt” bears a close resemblance to “guilt,” arguably the primary Jewish emotion. Guilt is about as Jewish as matzoh kugel and about as enjoyable as a game of dreidel with raisins for loot. So what better way to celebrate Chanukah (Hanukkah, Hanukah) than to find something to feel guilty about? And I never can stop at one, so in honor of the season, I’ve found a multitude of reasons to kick myself:
- Last night we had friends over for the second night of Chanukah. We had dinner, lit the menorah, ate latkes. The kids played. The parents talked. We had a wonderful evening, but the latkes, I must tell you, were not as crispy as they might have been. They were a little mushy in the center and a little overdone at the outer rim. Not only that (and I’m embarrassed to admit this), I forgot the applesauce and sour cream. So we ate them plain. No one complained, mind you, but what kind of a Jewish mama would I be if I didn’t feel terrible about it? I’d feel even more terrible for not feeling terrible.
- That three-pound bag of chocolate coins I bought at Costco? Oy vey. What a mistake.
- We will be traveling to California to spend Xmas with my husband’s family. Need I say more?
- Okay, more: We are flying on December 21, the day the Mayans predicted that the Earth would be destroyed (if, that is, it wasn’t destroyed on the other half-dozen dates previously specified). I am having some regrets about not going to temple on Yom Kippur.
- While in California, it’s likely we won’t have time to see everyone we promised to see. Already I feel terrible about this.
- That plan I had to buy fewer gifts for my son this year? It did not quite work out as originally conceived.
- This is the worst. The absolute worst. Ready? Saturday, the first night of Chanukah, I left the house ridiculously late to run my errands. The time kind of got away from me and I found myself at Whole Foods at 7 pm, cursing myself, my crappy time management, and my lack of consideration for my child. I raced home like a maniac and arrived at the ripe hour of 8 pm. We lit the menorah, gave the little guy his gifts, and all was right with the world. But that doesn’t make it okay.
- Last, but not least: If I give my child a Christmas DVD (The Polar Express) as a Chanukah gift (which is part of the plan), will G-d smite me?
Happy Chanukah to all, and to all some good guilt!