As we approach the confluence of Chanukah and Christmas, I wanted to highlight two posts from previous years which I think and hope might still be useful or germane:
Mai Chanukah?, 2008: "Chanukah has been different things to different people over time; it's different things to different people even now. That's a lot of layers of context for what is, in the grand scheme of things, a fairly minor Jewish holiday. But the multivalent character of the holiday speaks to something I deeply love about Judaism: that the tradition is always multivocal. That there's always more than one answer to every question. That our interpretations change over time, as our understandings of God and Torah and our relationship with the world change over time. That a holiday which could start out as a commemoration of military victory could turn into a holiday celebrating a leap of faith, into a holiday inviting us to purify our hearts, into a chance to hang out and eat fried foods and sing songs and exchange presents, into all of the above at the same time."
Forest beyond the trees, 2010: "I understand the American Jewish tendency to focus on The Tree, but I'm more interested in the bigger question of how we relate to other religious cultures, especially the majority religious culture within which our various Jewish cultures flourish. For me, the question of whether having (or enjoying) a tree diminishes one's Jewishness is beside the point. Jewish identity shouldn't be so fragile that a decorated evergreen can shake its foundations. At this season, we can become so fixated on the matter of the tree ("to trim a tree or not to trim a tree" -- is that really the question?) that we lose sight of the forest beyond it -- which is to say, the bigger religious picture of the year, of which December is only a small part."