This time of year, when I was growing up in the 1940s and ‘50s, is the season when my Jewish neighbors and I huddled in the shadows of the Christmas onslaught while holding our meager stash of Hanukkah gelt (gold).

Before anyone cared about diversity, if you were a Jewish person of moderate sensitivity, you could feel like a pair of sneakers at a formal wedding. They, our Christian majority neighbors, had Santa Claus, they had Christmas trees, they had dazzling ornaments, catchy songs that replayed over and over in your mind, and pretty wrapping paper.

We had fried potatoes, a candle-holder (called a menorah) used once a year, and a tiny wooden spinning top called a dreidel, which no one knew exactly how to play with.

The large city neighborhood I lived in was about 80/20 percent Jewish, yet during the weeks preceding Christmas, we were cutting out Christmas trees of green construction paper and red Santa Clauses and taping them to the windows of our public school.

And we had Christmas parties where the only male in the school, the janitor, dressed as Santa and gave away gift pencils after singing a chorus of the only song he knew, “I’ve Got A Lovely Bunch Of Coconuts.”

But let’s set the record straight: Hanukkah is not the Jewish Christmas. It has nothing to do with Christmas. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus whose followers, as I understand it, accepted that he was the long-awaited Messiah promised by God in the Old Testament.

Hanukkah is not so spiritual, more a celebration of good olive oil. The story goes like this: The Greeks and Syrians ruled Jeruselam and for the most part left the Jews alone to practice their religion. Until a change of policy saw the Greeks desecrate the temples without so much as an “excuse me.”

The Maccabees were the Jewish warriors who led an uprising against the Greek/Syrians, and at a crucial time it looked like the Jews would run out of oil after one night. But, as so often is the case in Jewish history, the oil lasted for eight nights and the Jews won that particular battle.

Either way, it was awkward growing up Jewish in a Christian majority country. It was impossible to escape the Chipmunks on the radio, the Santa Clauses on street corners, or the refrain from “The Nutcracker.”

It felt like our Christian cousins were having all the fun. Sure, we had our own traditions: Latkes (potato pancakes), prayerful lighting of the menorah for eight consecutive nights to remind us of the eight nights the oil lasted, and money in the form of silver dollars.

But that paled before the images we saw on television and in the movies: Beautifully decorated fir trees surrounded by presents wrapped in colorful paper you never saw again until the next Christmas. Movies like “Miracle on 34th Street” that convinced you there really was a Santa Claus.

Some Jewish people tried harder by bringing home a small fir tree, decorating it with Christmas ornaments and calling it a Hanukkah Bush. They looked like Christmas trees, smelled like Christmas trees, they were Christmas trees no matter what anyone said.

Now, many years later, such attempts seem like overkill. Other religions have emerged and the country sure seems more diverse than when I was young.

Today you can have your Christmas cake and eat it, too.