Hanging Stockings–an American Chanukah Custom?

From the Motherlode blog at the New York Times, on Jewish couples who have conflicts about holiday customs similar to those of intermarried couples:

I heard recently from Tami Kamin-Meyer, a lawyer with two sons, ages 10 and 14, living in Columbus, OH. “Both my husband of nearly 16 years and I are Jewish,” she wrote in an e-mail. “But his brand of Judaism is far more American than mine. My family is Israeli, and while I am a first generation American, my celebration of Jewish holidays, including traditions and attitudes, are closely aligned with Israeli customs rather than American.” When their first child was born, her husband wanted to hang stockings in the living room, but she did not. (They don’t.) He is more comfortable with prayers and holiday songs in English, which she prefers them in Hebrew. (They incorporate a little of both.)

I didn’t know that hanging stockings is a Jewish-American Chanukah custom. But then I’ve been away a long time.

(I am being sarcastic here, but I guess it didn’t come through. Sarcasm doesn’t work so well on blogs.)


  1. mother in israel says

    ProfK, I was being sarcastic. I guess in “print” this wasn’t obvious.

  2. NOT an American Jewish custom! Those more observant on the “frumkeit” scale do not hang stockings, don’t have “Chanukah bushes,” don’t dye eggs when Pesach comes close to Easter and don’t send their kids out all costumed up on Halloween. Those who fall lower on that “frumkeit” scale may or may not do so, but it says something about how assimilated they are or are not. And there are plenty of American Jews who neither observe all the Jewish customs nor the customs of others of different faiths–they aren’t religiously oriented towards any observance.

  3. stockings?! that’s bizarre.
    trick-or-treating is iffier territory – I mean, who wants to deny their dentist all that extra business?
    (our family’s compromise on that was that we were “trick-or-treat friendly” and my mom made sure to buy enough candy for us to have leftovers.)

  4. Yes, i remember one year our very kind Catholic neighbor wanted to help us celebrate the holiday season by giving us a Chanuka bush- decorated with chocolate menorahs and stars of david.
    It was very sweet, and she obviously didn’t know that we don’t celebrate that way.
    Definitely a case of the thought that counts.

  5. I always thought hanging stockings was an English custom. Didn’t even know that people did it in the States! Obviously never thought it was Jewish!

  6. Almost all Jews who are not Orthodox trick-or-treat, but even Reform Jews don’t have Christmas trees or stockings. Weird. My husband is convinced that any house that has blue and white lights is a Jewish house with really secular Jews. Don’t know if that’s true or not.

  7. I would consider myself a reform Jew, and my husband is an atheist (his parents are Baptist), and there is no way we would have stockings, a tree/bush, or anything else that is remotely Christmasy. None of the Jews I know (most of whom are reform) have any of this stuff at their houses. I doubt that anyone who truly identifies as Jewish (even humanistic Jews) would incorporate any Christmas stuff into their lives. It doesn’t make any sense.

  8. Hello. I am the Tami interviewed for this artice. What didn’t come out in the article was that my husband’s parents started their tradition of hanging stockings up on Christmas Eve so their kids ‘wouldn’t feel different’ than others. That tradition stopped dead in its tracks with me because as Jews, we ARE different. I’m not making a judgment here, just noting that as Jews, we don’t hang stockings. My husband doesn’t see hanging the stockings as a knock against Judaism, but rather a festive way to celebrate the season. However, what we do do to celebrate the season is what Jews do, which is eat homemade latkes, light the chanukiyah (each of us has our own), play dreidel and sing songs.
    We also enjoy looking at Christmas lights and other decorations because they bring light to otherwise dreary and cold nights.
    Unfortunately, many Jewish American parents see themselves as American first, Jewish second, so hanging up stockings is OK.

  9. Lion of Zion says

    “trick-or-treating is iffier territory – I mean, who wants to deny their dentist all that extra business?”
    well actually in this context sukkot has become halloween

  10. Mikeinmidwood says

    Lion O Zion
    I believe Purim still holds its place as the Jewsih Halloween. Tons of candy and not denying the dentist any business.

  11. Lion of Zion says

    you’ve never been to a suburban sukkah hop

  12. mother in israel says

    TC–good system. I’m sure my mother didn’t buy enough extra.
    Abbi–funny story.
    I-D–no stockings in France?
    Fern–interesting theory about blue and white lights. Maybe they are Israelis?
    Limor–thanks for your perspective. Stockings are clearly a Christian custom.
    Thanks for coming by. I figured that it was the blogger’s error.
    I believe that you and I went to elementary school together and your mother was my Hebrew teacher. I’m a little younger than you.
    LOZ and Mike: Unfortunately we don’t need too many excuses to give out candy during the Jewish year. No one even mentioned Simchat Torah. . .
    Mike, thanks for visiting!

  13. Lion of Zion says

    what’s a deneer?
    i’m not an expert in contemporary christmas customs, but i believe that olam is noheg to hang up the stockings *without* the leg

  14. Regular Anonymous says

    Happy as I am to be in Israel every day of the year, I’m happier about it in December.

  15. These stocking that some will be hanging – how many deneer are they? do they conform to all rules of tzniyus?

  16. mother in israel says

    Abbi, he has a wife.
    It’s not an obscure term in the haredi community– there are rabbis who require a denier above a certain thickness for modesty reasons. All stockings in Israel are labelled according to deniers.

  17. Whoohoo- look at Rafi with an obscure reference to women’s hosiery!
    I think the spelling is actually denier and LOZ, it’s a metric of how sheer or opaque stockings and tights are. Higher denier= more opaque (thicker).
    Rafi, did your grandfather own a dry goods store on the Lower East Side? Otherwise, I’m fasinated by how you know about that.

  18. no. he owned a paintstore in the Polish neighborhood of Milwaukee Ave in Chicago.
    I live in a [semi] haredi community, and went to haredi schools, and my wife went to bais yaakov and the like. Denier is all the rage in haredi-ville!

  19. LOL!
    Loved the comments!!

  20. MiI-Just thought I’d let you know that this Chanukah, I took your advice and made my sugar sauce for our fried pastry in the microwave. Worked out great and was so super quick! Thanks. I’m thinking you need to give the microwave impaired a lesson on ideas beyond reheating.

  21. mother in israel says

    Orthonomics, thanks and that will have to wait for my new blog–coming soon.

  22. I’m waiting. 🙂

  23. MiI,
    I was wondering if I could ask you for help re:breastfeeding help for a family member in Israel, who happens to be an American orthodox who just made aliya. I didn’t know how to contact you, so I’m leaving a comment. My e-mail address is ninjaeema AT aol Dot com. I’m sure that you are very busy, but any help would be wonderful.

  24. Several years ago, we were invited to the home of a couple, both of whom were born to Jewish parents, for a Chanukah get-together. The wreath on the door should have been ample warning! When we moved into the living room, a HUGE white and blue Christmas tree and stockings too. Our friends told us that they didn’t want their son to feel as left out as they had felt growing up.
    As a rabbi, I have to make certain that I don’t lecture my friends or make them feel as though I am judging them. So I refrained from stating that perhaps they would not have felt so left out if their families of origin had observed Judaism beyond the obligatory (and begrudging) attendance on the HHD, brief and lackluster seders, and Chanukah.
    I am not saying that my own kids don’t sometime voice a little tree envy now and again. However, I do firmly believe that making Jewish traditions and rituals part of life 52 weeks out of the year will drastically cut down on feeling left out of the big December celebration.

  25. I just rediscovered this post thanks to your tweet.

    “Unfortunately, many Jewish American parents see themselves as American first, Jewish second, so hanging up stockings is OK.”

    Hanging stockings is not an American custom, it’s a Christian custom. Regardless of whether an American Jew is American or Jewish first, there is no reason for one to hang a stocking or have a Christmas tree.

    The Christian-envy among secular Jews is weird. Why not immerse yourself in your own traditions, then you won’t feel any need to fill the void with foreign customs. I grew up in a committed Jewish home, and it never occurred to me that I was missing out because we didn’t celebrate Christmas.