The Hanukkah Fairy

We all know of the famous Christmas tale that begins, “Yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus.” Well, my story takes somewhat of a different spin. You see, six years ago, I finally had to say to my then 10-year-old daughter, “No, Melissa, there really isn’t a Hanukkah Fairy.”

It all began when my baby girl (now a teenager) still enjoyed the innocence of Kindergarten. As December approached, her classmates chattered endlessly with anticipation, wondering aloud what wonderful presents they would find under their tree Christmas morning, courtesy of their hero, the one and only Santa Claus. From the perspective of a 5-year-old, not getting a present from Santa just seemed so unfair. It didn’t matter that her grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, family friends, sister Jessica and, of course, my husband Bob and I showered her with presents for the eight days of Hanukkah. As one of only a few Jewish children in her class, all that she knew was that her gifts did not come from Santa, and that, in her young mind, made her feel terribly left out.

Soo . . . in a “crazed mom” effort to ease my daughter’s pain . . . I sort of made up a teensy weensy little lie. I told her she should feel lucky, because the Jewish people had the Hanukkah Fairy.

Ok, I admit, I am not proud of my deception to my 5-year-old. However, when her big brown eyes lit up and her frown faded away, I simply had to perpetuate the myth. What I didn’t count on were all of the questions: “Where does the Hanukkah Fairy live?” (At the mall.) “How does she know what I want for Hanukkah?” (I tell her when I go shopping, and she picks out the presents and gives them to me.)

The hardest questions were targeted to my husband, who desperately struggled to elaborate on a lie he didn’t invent!

“Daddy, is the Hanukkah Fairy real?” she asked during a quiet moment when the two shared a car ride alone.

“Uh, well, hmmm,” came his eloquent response, as he wiped the sweat off his forehead and secretly cursed me under his breath.  

“The Hanukkah Fairy is real if you believe it’s real.”

The holiday came and went, and thanks to the Hanukkah Fairy, Melissa finally felt just as special as her friends who received gifts from Santa.

When the holiday season approached the following year, I naively thought my little girl would forget about the Hanukkah Fairy. Alas, 'twas not meant to be. As Hanukkah inched closer, not only did Melissa wonder aloud about the many presents the Hanukkah Fairy would bring, but she told all of her friends about it, who in turn told their parents, who in turn asked me about this totally unfamiliar Hanukkah tradition. I had to whisper out of earshot of my daughter and explain to my Jewish and Christian friends alike how and why I invented Melissa’s new-found favorite fairy.

As Melissa got older, Bob and I tried very hard to help her understand that, even though we celebrated a different holiday, we shared with everyone the spirit of faith and goodwill that for me, is the best part of the holiday season. Each year, we would “adopt” a less fortunate family, and Melissa took delight in wheeling the shopping cart through the toy store, helping to pick out gifts for the kids. On Christmas Day, Melissa made cards out of construction paper and we delivered them to patients in the local hospital where I worked at the time.

We also tried to help her understand the story of Hanukkah. It takes place in ancient times, when the Syrians attacked the Jews, trying to force them to give up their faith. Although horribly outnumbered, the Jews won the battle, but their Temple was destroyed. However, amid the devastation, they found enough oil to burn in a lamp for only one day. Yet, miraculously, the oil burned for eight days, and that is why we light a candle for each of the holiday’s eight days. Hanukkah pays homage to everyone who has fought for the right to worship as they please, to celebrate their heritage, to share their own traditions with their children and to be proud of who they are. In short, Hanukkah celebrates freedom!

Today, at 16, Melissa has long since put aside the notion that presents arrive thanks to magical beings carrying baskets full of Barbie dolls and Disney princesses. While she still gratefully appreciates the numerous American Eagle gift cards she is sure to receive this holiday season, for my teen, the holidays have evolved into something much more than an excuse to exchange presents. It is an opportunity to help me create a festive holiday dinner, to appreciate the memorable traditions that connect us to past generations and to relish in the love of dear friends and family, both near and far.

Happy holidays to you from the Weinstein family . . . and The Hanukkah Fairy!

Lisa Weinstein is a South Jersey mom who blogs about parenting a teen, coping with middle age and celebrating nearly two decades of marriage. This post was adapted from her blog, The Mixed Up Brains of Lisa Weinstein.

Categories: MomSpeak