Come on in, 2007!

2006 had its share of ups and downs, but really, it was a fantastic year and I'm sorry to see it go. However, the best way to send it out was to witness MZ's captivation with the holidays -- all of them.

First she discovered her Chanukah books and started singing the Dreidel song well before the first night. She was all about the menorahs and the dreidels until she discovered the nutcrackers. Nutcrackers are da bomb. Snowmen are cool, Santas are kinda creepy, but Nutcrackers rock her world. Ironically, the only shop in the area that had a 5' tall lighted Menorah also had 9' tall Nutcrackers, flanking an equally large Mouse King. No contest.

At first that freaked me out a little bit. Did she think Christmas was better than Chanukah? How would we deal with that? Would it break her heart that Santa doesn't visit the Jewish kids? I had gone into the holiday season so blaise, she would get to "visit" Christmas with her maternal grandparents, it was part of her cultural heritage if not her religious tradition. What could be better? And then she got all Christmas-y on me, and I doubted. I feared.

Really, though, I've got to admit that nothing competes with the 10' inflatable Santa that jumps out of a chimney just down the street. What could appeal to a toddler more than a tree with sparkly things all over it? Chanukah is downright reserved in comparison, and it's not even a major holiday.

Over the course of the weeks I began to enjoy Christmas more than I ever had in my life. What a cool tradition our neighbors bring into our lives! How we admire the lights and trees and train sets and tiny towns that zip underneath! After years of agnostic ambivalence, I finally came to feel about Christmas the way I feel about Chinese New Year and Diwali: it's so cool that we live in a multicultural society and I want my daughter to be exposed to all of it. I want her to fully enjoy the traditions practiced by our family and friends and neighbors, and someday when she understands their meaning, to respect their beliefs.

But for now it was just a great time taking her to see those giant Nutcrackers a few times a week, to hang blue and white lights in our windows and witness her anticipation at dusk when they were about to come on, to light candles together each of the eight nights and hear her chant Nun Gimel Hay Shin and the lines from her books (Do you know the reason why? It's Hanukkah tonight!), and then to wake up on Christmas morning to her very own stocking, a blue and white number hand-knitted by her Mana.

And I learned that the best way to raise a Jewish kid is to raise her Jewish. This month she began to shade her eyes during the prayer over the Shabbat candles. It warmed me, possibly no less than it did her Daddy and her Bubbie, because I am the one who has religiously (is there any better term?) taken her to the Shabbat playgroup every Friday. She says L'Chaim and raises her glass when we say our prayer over the wine, and anytime we do cheers. She asks for candles and challah on any given night, she already knows Shabbat is a celebration and she looks forward to it. She asks for her dreidel books even today, a week after Chanukah, and still sings that dreidel song (although I'm not sure how I feel about her Daddy and her Papa putting her dreidels in her new toy oven so that they'll be "dry and ready").

2006 has been an adventure, culminating in my favorite holiday season to date. We keep saying this is her best phase, and then it just gets better, so come on in, 2007! We're glad to see you.

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