Holidays

Hanukkah burnout: After six nights, more than the latkes are fried

Dec. 3, 2013 at 11:33 AM ET

Menorah
Sarah Maizes
With eight days to celebrate, sometimes parents are in danger of burning out before the candles do. How do you keep your Hanukkah spirit going?

I’m done with Hanukkah.

Yes, I realize that this generously spanned holiday still has two days of “celebration” to go, but after six nights of gifts, latkes and candles (followed by the cleaning up of remnants of gifts, latkes and candles), I’m fried. Which is ironic, because Hanukkah is all about fried stuff.

Let me tell you, eight days is a REALLY long time to sustain any kind of celebratory happiness -- especially for us Jews. Mardi Gras doesn’t even technically last that long and those people really know how to party.

Every year, I set out with the best of intentions, tackling holiday shopping head on (and often online) so that by the time Hanukkah arrives I am fully prepared. I can sit back, bask in the glow of the Hanukkah candles, and enjoy my family.

On the first night of Hanukkah, I lay out a huge pile of meticulously chosen and festively wrapped presents for each child by the fireplace. The menorah is cleaned and displayed. Fresh candles and matches lay at the ready. I fry up a huge plate of homemade latkes, and bowls of organic applesauce and sour cream await dipping.

By the third night of Hanukkah, the presents are crumpled and ripped from the intense scrutiny of my children, my menorah has wax build-up and I smell like an old fryer.

I used to love the holidays. As a kid, my parents dealt with relatives, bought the gifts (and chocolate gelt… and dreidles), and supplied the latkes. All I had to do was shriek with joy over my new Barbie camper.

But the reality is that the holidays just aren’t the same once we’re parents. Suddenly, we’re the ones setting the stage, frying up the latkes and trying to find gift wrap wide enough to cover a camper, all while trying to maintain our Hanukkah cheer for eight days and nights so that we may pass along our beloved traditions to our children. It’s not easy.

So what can we do to keep the holiday spirit flowing when it begins to wane like the candles on the menorah?

Debra Green Garfinkle, author of the “Zeke Meeks” series for children and mother of three teenagers, changes things up with zucchini latkes and tries to make it not all about the presents: “We also have one charity night on which each child picks a charity that we donate money to.”

“Don't go overboard. Keep the gifts small but the latkes big and plentiful. We may not have a tree, but we have oil, lots of oil.” says Eva Glettner, blogger and mother of three boys ages 10, 8 and 7. She keeps the gifts small: “A Minecraft mod, a hat, some skate gear, a book... I don't wrap either. I'm environmentally lazy -- I mean friendly -- that way.”

Samantha Ettus, work/life balance expert, tries to mix things up to avoid burning out. “We always try to do one night with family friends, one night with extended family, and then one night with latkes," she says. "We break it up by marking it with these highlights and then we do eight nights of presents -- one night is sibling present exchange, one night is spouse present exchange.”

Whatever holiday you celebrate, what are your ideas for avoiding burnout and keeping it special?

Sarah Maizes is a freelance writer, parenting humorist, comedian and the author of Got Milf? The Modern Mom’s Guide to Feeling Fabulous, Looking Great and Rocking a Minivan.”For more parenting wisdom and unsolicited advice, check out SarahMaizes.com and follow Sarah's antics on Facebook.

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