Mid-week open thread: Chanukah edition

Happy Chanukah to those in the Bleeding Heartland community who observe the holiday. Members of the desmoinesdem family who are not eagerly putting together their new Lego set are enjoying Chanukah music. After our candles burn down we’re heading to the “Chanukah on Ice” event Chabad is putting on tonight at the Brenton Skating Plaza in Des Moines.

I consider the holiday season the best time of year to be Jewish, because there are a lot of fun Chanukah traditions, but no pressure to bake, decorate, etc.

Favorite Chanukah parenting tip: buy an extra box of candles. Kids love to help putting candles in the menorah, and they will break some.

This is an open thread. What’s on your mind?

UPDATE: Former Representative Stephen Solarz of New York died this week at the age of 70. I remember seeing him during an Iowa visit sometime during the 1980s. At that time, he was a rising star in the Democratic Party. He may even have visited my precinct caucus in 1988–I can’t recall exactly when he was here. The New York Times obituary and this article by Steve Kornacki on the complicated relationship between Solarz and Chuck Schumer are worth reading.

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Buy local holiday shopping thread

Chanukah’s over, but there’s still time to shop for Christmas presents.

Blog for Iowa highlighted 12 great locally-owned places to shop in Iowa. Many of them feature locally-produced foods and hand-made crafts. For those heading to Prairieland Herbs and Picket Fence Creamery near Woodward, I would recommend driving 10 minutes up the road to Northern Prairie Chevre. Their little store carries items from many other local businesses.

If you want toys, clothes or accessories for babies or small children, try out one of these Des Moines-area businesses:

Simply for Giggles

The Stork Wearhouse

Little Padded Seats

VannyBean Baby Organics

The toy store on the lower level of Valley West mall

After the jump I’m re-posting a diary I wrote last December on no-clutter holiday gift ideas. Another way to support locally-owned businesses is to buy your friends or relatives services or entertainment that they might not treat themselves to or can’t afford.

Also consider donating to a local non-profit that means a lot to your loved one.

Please post your own ideas in the comments.

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Open thread on surviving the holiday season

In my book, the holiday season is the best time of year to be Jewish. We celebrate Chanukah, but it is a minor Jewish holiday and doesn’t dominate a month of our lives. It is also not commercialized enough to drown out what we do as a family to mark the holiday.

Every year I see people feeling so much pressure to buy things and make things and decorate and create the perfect magical Christmas atmosphere, but they don’t have time to feel peaceful. At the moms’ groups people are always so stressed out.

It’s easy for me to explain to my kids that many people celebrate Christmas, while we celebrate Chanukah. I think it would be more difficult to try to teach children the true meaning of Christmas when your holiday is being used as a vehicle to push consumer spending.

Some conservatives get mad when store employees say “Happy holidays” instead of “Merry Christmas.” I don’t get the manufactured outrage about the alleged “war on Christmas.” Do they want everyone to think Christmas is all about jolly Santa and decorated trees and dancing reindeer?

This is an open thread for discussing anything you do to make the season meaningful, or at least reduce your stress level.

One friend has a ritual of going through the playroom with her kids before Christmas to pick toys to give away. No one gives away a treasured possession, but all the kids are expected to choose a few things no one plays with anymore, which can go to kids who need them.

Another friend is having a “clothing swap” party before Christmas to inspire us to finish cleaning out our closets. Women will bring clothes they don’t wear, or which don’t fit anymore. Other women can take them home if they like them. The extra clothes will go to charity after the party.

Another friend told me his family became inspired by the Hundred-Dollar Christmas idea a few years ago and now mostly exchanges hand-made or reused gifts.

Feel free also to discuss your favorite things about the holiday season or recommend your favorite holiday music. We mostly listen to Chanukah music, but I do enjoy the Klezmonauts’ Christmas album “Oy to the World”. Click the link to listen to samples of Christmas songs performed in the klezmer (“Jewish jazz”) style.  

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