Hanukkah Boy in a Christmas World

red-jacket-sword-nutcrackerThe phone rang on a cold December morning, the week before school let out for Christmas break. It was my son’s kindergarten teacher. My heart leaped in my chest, certain my precious baby had fallen and cracked his head open or broken his leg. “What happened? What’s wrong?” I was already searching for my car keys, desperate to get to the school before the paramedics arrived. “Nothing’s wrong,” the teacher said. “Well not exactly wrong . . .” I put down my purse. This could not be good. “It’s just that, um, Sammy’s been . . . been having a little trouble since we started our Holiday Unit.” “Trouble?” I asked. “Yes, I’m afraid so. He’s telling his classmates there’s no such thing as Santa.” “Oh dear.” I began to think a broken leg would have been preferable. I had visions of furious gentile mothers chasing after me with wooden nutcrackers. “I’ve gotten calls from two parents already. It’s creating quite a stir.” I took a deep breath. “I’m so sorry. I can’t imagine why he’d do that. I know he’s quite excited about Hanukkah.” “Oh that he is,” she said. “And we are completely holiday neutral in class, I assure you. In addition to templates for Christmas trees, Santas, and wreaths, I have them for dreidels and menorahs, too. Interestingly, my other Jewish students use some of the Christmas designs, but not Sammy. He’ll only do Hanukkah. Yesterday we ran out of blue construction paper. He wasn’t happy.” I pictured my little boy’s indignant pout as he made a red and green dreidel. “I’ll talk to him,” I said. “I’m sure we can work this all out.” “Okay, thank you,” his teacher said, a hint of relief in her voice. Sammy bounded into the house that afternoon, as always, like an excited puppy. I tried to sound nonchalant. “Why are you telling kids there’s no Santa?” So much for nonchalant. “Because there isn’t one.” He pulled a collection of Hanukkah decorations out of his backpack. “Look what I made.” He showed them proudly, even the green dreidel. I gathered him onto my lap. “Sammy, you shouldn’t be telling your classmates there’s no Santa. It’s not right to spoil it for them.” “But why would they want to believe in something that’s not real?” That was a pretty big question coming from a little boy, and I struggled with my answer. “Maybe because it’s fun,” I said. “Sometimes parents like to tell stories and create traditions for their families. We do that, like with the tooth-fairy.” His expression changed, and a little frown formed between his eyebrows. Oy, what was I thinking? Naturally, a jolly, fat man in a red suit who jumps down chimneys with a sack of toys was make-believe, but a magical fairy who leaves money under pillows in exchange for teeth made perfect sense. I changed the subject quickly. “How do you know there’s no Santa anyway?” “Mickey told me.” Of course. The older brother always tells. “Well, sweetie, do you think you could just not talk about it for the next few days?” “Okay,” Sammy scrambled off my lap and began taping his artwork to the front windows. I could tell by the expression on his face that he was deep in thought, the wheels inside his brain spinning away. I held my breath for the next three days. Every time the phone rang, I jumped. When Friday afternoon finally rolled around and Christmas vacation began, I breathed a sigh of relief. No more irate parents calling the teacher and no crazy mothers chasing after me. It was spring when the teacher called again. We exchanged a few pleasantries and then discussed plans for the upcoming Mother’s Day tea. I was about to hang up when I heard her clearing her throat. “I really hate to bring this up,” she said. “Bring what I up?” I asked. “Well, uh, it’s just that, yesterday one of the little girls in our class lost a tooth . . .”


14 thoughts on “Hanukkah Boy in a Christmas World

    1. Victoria — when my boys started to doubt the tooth fairy, I told them when you stop believing she stops coming!
      They didn’t question it again until every last tooth was taken!!


  1. Many years ago, Santa was outed (in Yiddish) by her grandmother, and when She informed her fellow kindergarteners, the teacher was not nearly so understanding as Sammy’s teacher was.


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