birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Merry Hanukah! Happy Christmas!

It was all over by the time I was eight years old and the earlier years are a bit of a blur, but the December holiday season made me giddy with anticipation.

We celebrated both Hanukah AND Christmas like most of the Jews we knew.

Hanukah was always the less interesting of the two holidays. Even the color scheme was a little drab. Silver and blue. They were almost negative colors. A palette for winter’s bleakness – which was pretty amusing because we were in Los Angeles, where there is no icy blue winter to be found.

But Christmas was so colorful! Bright reds, vibrant greens, luscious golds and deep purples. And, there was Santa! A jolly, laughing person who handed out armfuls of gifts! That was much more enticing than a nightly candle lighting ceremony and one gift per night.

The Hanukah gifts were the dull ones. New slippers. A pack of underwear. A replacement hairbrush for the one that went missing. Little packets of bubble bath salts.

The big guns were held back for Christmas morning. The exact doll I craved! A microscope! Chutes and Ladders!

My brother would find a way to liberate a Christmas tree from an abandoned lot every year on Christmas Eve. It was too much of an expense to justify buying one. He would decorate it while I slept and it would be there, glowing when I awoke on Christmas morning.

The first couple of times he did it, he would shift over the decorations from the pile of dried branches used as the Hanukah Bush, a found piece of manzanita shrub that our mother repurposed as a decorative object displayed year round in our living room. At Hanukah, it would be sparsely dangled with hand-made stars and dreidels and a few dime store crepe paper accordion ones. But each year the Christmas tree decorations would get a bit more elaborate, courtesy of my brother, until we had two bits of shrubbery holding court in the living room, each with their respective holiday finery.

Red, White & Blue

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