It’s December and the holiday season is in full force. This is a time of year I typically love – decking my halls for Hanukkah and Christmas, sending greeting cards, and preparing my holiday baking list. But this year, the holiday spirit seems to be lost on me.
When I say I’m not in the spirit, it’s not as if I’m likening myself to The Grinch. I’m more on par with Charlie Brown, feeling as if something is “missing.” After mulling this over for a while, I think I figured out what exactly is bothering me.
This year more than ever before, I’m finding myself more shocked by the constant commercialization of the holiday season and the huge emphasis on buying THINGS and spending money.
Let’s start with Hanukkah, a holiday that I’ve never really associated with being commercialized. Our family celebrations have included crafting, cooking latkes, lighting the menorah, celebrating with family, and one or two gifts. Yep, you read right — we don’t do the eight gifts on eight nights in this house.
This year the first day of Hanukkah fell on Thanksgiving. And because of that, it was as if manufacturers and consumers took this as an opportunity to commercialize the heck out of the holiday. Suddenly it was Thanksgivingukkuah and Jews were expected to celebrate the two holidays together with turkey menorahs, crazy t-shirts and other such paraphernalia.
While it’s true that the two holidays overlapped this year, I certainly don’t think it warranted a new line of decor and accessories. But there it was – a bunch of stuff for people to spend money on, and in this case, never use again.
Then there was the matter of all those stores opening on Thanksgiving. Bad enough people are nearly killing each other for Black Friday deals after just the day before giving thanks for what they have.
I think what disturbs me more and more each year is the emphasis on buying STUFF that we don’t really need. Deals disguised as bargains just to get people into stores to spend money and go further into debt. And it doesn’t end there! Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday … all marketing ploys to get people to spend money!
Before I end, let me clarify that I’m not against giving thoughtful gifts or kids finding something magical from Santa Claus under the tree. What bothers me is not the gifts themselves; it’s the commercialization and focus on spend, spend, spend on “deals and bargains.”
I don’t know why this commercialization and spending craze is bothering me more this year, or why it’s put me into a holiday funk. Perhaps because every dollar I make (or don’t make) impacts our budget. Maybe because I have a daughter for whom I’m responsible for teaching to be a good person and steward of money. Or maybe it was the Thanksgiving-Hanukkah mash-up that set me off.
I do know that for me, the holiday season is not about buying things at discount and accumulating more stuff. It’s about the beauty, the magic, and – most importantly – the faith surrounding these days. It’s just sad that so much of the world doesn’t see it that way.
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Every Thanksgiving I think this is the year I’ll try new recipes. But when it comes down to it, I always go back to the ones I love and make every year. I guess I’m a traditionalist at heart!
As you prepare your menu, start the shopping, and test new recipes, here’s a round-up of my dishes that make Thanksgiving the holiday I love!
I love making making crockpot stuffing. It’s so easy and frees up much-needed oven and stove space.
For a Jewish twist on Thanksgiving, try matzo stuffing.
Butternut squash and caramelized onion gallette is so good. You may not want to save this one for just Thanksgiving.
Creamed corn is AMAZING! Double (or triple) this recipe – seriously. It will be the first thing to go!
I have a thing for Brussels sprouts. I much prefer them over beans or other green veggies. These Brussels sprouts with pancetta are my favorite.
Of course, these Brussels sprouts with mustard cream sauce were pretty good too.
There are so many cranberry sauce recipes out there. But I just love my cranberry zinfandel sauce that I’ve been making for years.
If you’re celebrating Hanukkah with Thanksgiving, you need potato latkes!
And for dessert, I compiled all my pumpkin desserts in one place for you! You’re welcome.
I’m so excited for Thanksgiving! I can already smell the turkey.
Do you know what you’re making for Thanksgiving yet (besides the turkey)? Tell me what recipes are your tradition.
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Have you noticed it’s November? Where did the year go?! This may sound strange, but I’m already planning Hanukkah activities.
That’s right, Hanukkah is early this year. We light the first candle at sundown on Nov. 27, the night before Thanksgiving! I’m not terribly thrilled the Festival of Lights is in November, but it is what are you gonna do?!
In the Hanukkah spirit, Sophie and I spent this past weekend getting our Hanukkah crafts on. Our first crafts came from the Kiwi Crate Hanukkah Crate. Kiwi Crate is awesome! You can order monthly or one-time craft kits and it comes with everything! I love that because I don’t have to go to the store and buy supplies. And the crafts are simple enough for kids to create.
The Hanukkah kit contained a dreidel spin art set and DIY menorah.
Let’s start with the dreidel spin art. You place a piece of pre-cut card stock over the wooden dreidel, drizzle some paint over it as it spins in the crate box, and voila, you have beautiful art!
This craft was a HUGE hit with Sophie! She pretty much used up every piece of card stock. And I was pleasantly surprised that all the paint splatters stayed in the box!
The second craft was a DIY menorah. This kit came with nine plastic candle holders (eight nights and the shamash), Mod Podge sparkly glue, and tissue squares. You paint each “candle” with glue and decorate it with your choice of tissue paper colors.
The DIY menorah took a little more time and I ended up helping Sophie with some of the “candles.” I had fun doing it though. And this one was messier and stickier. But it all washed off easily.
The kit comes with flameless LED tea lights so kids can “light” the candles themselves on each night of Hanukkah. Isn’t it pretty? I love how the menorah turned out!
(Make sure you take a beautiful photo with your Kirkland water bottles in the background too!)
By the way, Kiwi Crate has some really cute kits for Thanksgiving and Christmas too.
Our final Hanukkah craft was assembling and decorating a gingerbread menorah kit from Sweet Thrills Bakeshop. This was so fun! Here’s what the kit looked like and what it can potentially look like if you follow their model.
Now since this was Sophie’s craft, I let her do all the decorating.
Here’s just a look at some of the candy that came with the kit!
Our kitchen smells like yummy gingerbread! I’m trying to keep Sophie from eating the menorah. Although we BOTH did a fair amount of eating the candy!
Other Posts You May Like:
- Hanukkah, Hanukkah, Come MAKE a Menorah (craft)
- Hanukkah Happenings (2012)
- 8 Gift Ideas for the 8 Nights of Hanukkah (my article in Red Tricycle)
- Hanukkah Latkes — Yum Yum Yum!
- Happy Hanukkah (2010)
DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary Hanukkah craft kit from Kiwi Crate. All opinions are my own (including my love of Hanukkah crafts) and I only endorse products I truly believe in and recommend to others.
While it’s true that my Halloween decorations are boxed away and the “thankful” banners and turkeys are already on display. I still have to wrap up October before I can officially move on to the month of November. So here’s a final look at my favorite month of pumpkins, candy and Halloween!
Shopping for pumpkins at our local Trader Joe’s.
Bipp’s version of Where’s Waldo among the Halloween decorations …
Casey: “I’m NOT happy about this!”
Sophie had her birthday party at a local pumpkin patch in October. Technically she turns 6 in November, but we do love a good Halloween-themed party!
Here’s one of the party favors I made, which was inspired by the eighteen25 blog.
I also handed out these party bags with Magic Straws (chocolate, strawberry and cookies and cream flavors). The kids LOVED them!
I made these brownie treats for Sophie’s school’s fall carnival. The brownie cup is from Sweet Baking & Candy Making Supply.
And these were for her class Halloween party.
And the day we waited all month for … Halloween!
This was the first year Sophie wanted to carve them herself. She did nearly all the work. Except scrape out the seeds – she left that for me!
Sophie was Hermione Granger from Harry Potter. You can’t tell, but she’s waving her wand (Wingardium Leviosa!). I have to admit — that in today’s world where vampires and Monster High are so popular – it made me so happy that she went with Hermione for her costume (and it required no additional purchases since we had the cape and wand already!).
We handed out more Magic Straws to the trick or treaters. Those were the first to go!
It really was a great Halloween and one of the best Octobers in recent years.
But now I’m ready for the month of birthdays (mine, Sophie, my mom, and mother-in-law), Thanksgiving, Hanukkah (it’s WAY early this year), school vacation days, my sister and nephew visiting from Iowa, and cooler weather! Bring on November!
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This past weekend Sophie gave me a card she made. She colored the front and back purple (my favorite color), and on the inside drew a big heart. She wrote one sentence, which she sounded out and spelled herself. It read, “You R the momy I love.”
Sophie told me she wanted to write a much longer sentence, but that was all she could manage. I hugged her, cried, and told her it was beautiful and made me feel so very special.
One of my favorite childhood television shows was Little House on the Prairie. In fact, it’s still one of my favorite series. There was an episode called “Country Girls” that told the story of Laura and Mary’s first weeks at school. Laura was just learning to read and write. On the School Visitor’s Day, the kids were asked to recite an essay they wrote. Laura recited a beautiful tribute to her Ma. But when Ma looked at Laura’s essay, she found only these words:
Ma is good.
She works hard.
Laura told Ma that all those words she said were in her heart and they were exactly what she would have written if she knew how to spell them. That episode always tugs at my heartstrings. And when Sophie gave me that little note — just like Ma — I was moved to tears and couldn’t have been more proud of my little girl.
There are moments when I feel — as a mother — I’m not doing anything right. I struggle with how to make sure I’m loving, upbeat and happy with Sophie, while also balancing that with enforcing boundaries, assuring I’m not being walked over, and keeping my own personal stresses at bay. It’s hard. Sometimes it feels overwhelming and that I’m failing.
But then I have moments such as the one where Sophie wrote those heartfelt words on paper. Or when she told me her favorite part of her birthday party was watching me sing to her and cut the cake. And then later seeing a photo of Sophie and I looking at each other — seeing the joy in both of our eyes — as we sing “Happy Birthday.”
Those are the moments I hold in my heart. The moments that make all the self-doubts disappear and I realize I must be doing something right. Those are the moments of motherhood I treasure.
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