I love Hannukah. And it is not just because I am Jewish. I am a convert, so I have been on both sides. Compared to Christmas, Hannukah is so much more laid back, and unpressured. There is no demand for the consumerism. Yes we give presents. But it is optional. Some families do, some don't. And when you do, it is truely appreciated, not done out of habit, so you bought your cousin/aunt/boss some cheap lame, last-minute gift you would be horrified if someone gave you. And we do it because we think we have to.
With Hannukah, that pressured consumerism is removed. No counting down how many shopping days. No holiday-binge related debt to repay come January for most of us. Those that do exchange gifts usually keep it to simple gifts for most nights. Like a book, or a box of chocolates, or such. Maybe a sweater or some handknit socks. There might be one fancy gift. Most families give 1 gift per child per night. So 8 gifts total. Not massive pile of gifts, and a stocking full of more gifts.
This year I spent around $100 per person for the holiday, and that was a lot higher than I have spent in a few years, but it was needed for several as they needed new clothes, so that was part of their gifts. We do get them gifts at other times, as well as clothes, but to me, the mass commercialization of Christmas has taken all the spiritualality out of what the holiday originally meant -- even the secular way of keeping Christmas has gotten severly warped in the past 10 years or so. It is nothing like what it was when I was a kid, much less the Christmas of tradition.
I also feel that Hannukah -- like most aspects of Jewish teachings, is centered on the home and family, rather than a specific ritual. When one lights the menorahs, and then sits to watch the candles burn, while talking and visiting with your family. No rush. No pressure. Nothing else to be done ... that is it for the holiday. The food you serve is a compliment to the candles. It is not the stress and drudgery that keeps usually tires the woman out so much that she can barely enjoy Christmas Day, if she is putting on the Big Family Dinner.
Food is simple. Nothing expensive, just like the gifts. Potatoe latkes, with a side of applesauce. Homemade donughts. Maybe a bit of Chocolate. Now don't get me wrong, just because it is not expensive food, does not mean we go hungry. We Jews know how to eat, and eat well when we celebrate! But we do not have to get all into the fancy turducken gimicky things.
The only thing I can honestly say I miss about Christmas is the smell of the real pine tree in the house. Whenever we walk by the tree lots now I cannot help taking a nostalgic whiff, but I can very cheerfully add that I don't miss vaccuming up the needles from the shag carpet for weeks on end.
Yes that I definitely do not miss.