Hanukkah came insanely early this year. If you haven't heard about the once-in-78,000-years harmonic convergence, you must have been living under a rock. Or you were busy with your "Peace Corps buddies" building an "irrigation system" in Burundi. Or you were in a coma. Regardless, now that Hanukkah is over, we Jews have a unique opportunity.
We have wrapped and unwrapped all the gifts. The smell of last week's fried-in-oil fest still hits us when we come back in the house after a day at work. We'll be scraping the melted wax off the table for a few more days, but before us lies an entire "holiday season" and our holidaying is over. What's a Jew to do?
- Catch up on your reading. The library is bound to be less crowded than the mall for the next few weeks. If you haven't been in a while, it's an amazing place where you can borrow books and read them, then return them so they don't clutter up your night table. Of course, the corollary to this is A) get a library card and B) Google map the library.
- Start your New Year's resolutions early. Now that you're done with all the deep-fried jelly-filled goodness that is Hanukkah, you can begin your new exercise/diet regimen. On the principle that no one keeps it up more than two weeks after New Year's, you'll be six weeks in before our collective willpower starts to wane. You may be able to climb the stairs without getting out of breath!
- Do some winter cleaning. For some reason, we all do our big cleaning in the spring when we'd rather be outside. Why not take advantage of the free time when it's too chilly to hang out in the out-of-doors? You get extra points if you can convince your kids to help. Bribery is always an option. When you're done, you'll have made extra room to store this year's Hanukkah booty and scrubbed off the last-of-the-latke splatter, which inexplicably flew all the way into the master bedroom.
- Volunteer. Christmas celebrators are awfully busy these upcoming few weeks. That means that lots of charitable organizations will be looking for extra help. But many of the official volunteer opportunities are holiday related. Instead, ask your non-Jewish friends if there are things you can help with to ease their Christmas-season stress. Maybe they can help you clean for Passover. Hey, a girl can dream. Corollary to this -- some of us might need to work on getting some non-Jewish friends.
- Learn a winter sport. The winter Olympics are fast approaching. Granted your participation will likely be limited to sitting on the couch with a mug of hot chocolate and viciously critiquing the less-than-flawless triple axels. But if you can get in a little skiing or skating or curling -- okay, maybe not curling -- beforehand, you may have a little more appreciation for the crazy hard work that goes into preparing those super humans. What, you thought I was going to suggest you could BE an Olympic athlete? That ship has most likely sailed, my friend.
- Redouble your "War on Christmas" efforts. For those of you who haven't been at the recent meetings, the War on Christmas is still going strong. Amazingly, though FOX News has been hot on our trail for years now, the rest of the media are still unconvinced thanks to all the Jews in the media. Good job, guys. And don't worry. No way they're reading this. Seriously, though, let people know you appreciate their effort to include you. Except the guy at Barnes and Noble who yesterday wished me a "Happy holiday season for whichever holiday you may be celebrating this year." He may have gone too far.
- Take advantage of stocking stuffers. Just like day-after-Halloween sales are the best place to buy Purim costumes, stocking stuffers make great afikomen presents. Just saying.
- Know who you are. We spend a lot of this season worried about our children feeling jealous of the massive religious/cultural/consumer festival that is Christmas. But the best way to inoculate ourselves and our kids against the relentless onslaught of Christmas songs and Christmas decorations and "very special" Christmas episodes and Christmas commercials and Christmas coffee and Christmas dog outfits... is to have something else to care about. To be so consumed with the rich history, the vast set of traditions, the varied cultures making up the Jewish people, that we hardly have the time or psychic energy to dedicate to stories about elves and flying deer. We'll be wishing for more downtime soon enough.