interfaith holiday presents

December Celebrations Across America

This month, on A Cookie Before Dinner, we’re featuring four guests who all have a different take on navigating the holiday season. Some families celebrate Christmas without Santa. Some families blend holiday traditions. Some families celebrate Hanukkah, while others have interfaith families that celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. However we celebrate, one thing is for sure– we celebrate love and joy with our families and friends.

I say we are interfaith, but really, we’re a Jewish family with a little Christmas thrown in. I was raised Jewish, and am still a practicing Jew. My husband grew in a Puerto Rican Catholic family, but he’s not one for organized religion. So, way back before we got married and I said I wanted to raise our kids Jewish, he didn’t feel strongly about it one way or another.

What my husband does appreciate are traditions. Though he’s not a religious guy, he has fond childhood memories of Christmas celebrations.  We grew up worlds apart in more ways than one but holidays were a time of light and joy, and still are.  2016 was a pretty unique year with the first night of Chanukah falling on Christmas Eve. I was asked, “How are you going to celebrate both?!”

Answer? EASY. Eat Christmas Eve dinner by the light of our menorah! In the Spanish tradition, we start our Christmas celebration with dinner on Christmas Eve, so before we sat down to eat a dinner of brisket and latkes, we lit the candles for the first night of Chanukah and had jelly donuts for dessert. We also started a tradition with the kids of giving them new pajamas on Christmas Eve. This year, they also got their Chanukah presents on Christmas Eve.

interfaith holiday

That’s another thing we do a little differently since we celebrate both holidays. Instead of eight nights of gifts, they get new books and a small gift on the first night, then on Christmas Day, they get their bigger gifts and their stocking. We do not have a “Chanukah bush,” we have a Christmas tree that we usually buy Thanksgiving weekend and decorate the week following. While I don’t feel the need to co-opt Christmas and turn Chanukah into a “Jewish Christmas” (a phrase I abhor, by the way, and deligitimizes Chanukah as a commemorative event in its own right), I have wholeheartedly embraced a decorated Christmas mantel and tree, and the serving of Christmas dinner.

Though my husband and I are bringing different traditions to the table, we know that our children are growing up with solid traditions of their own that they will hopefully carry with them, wherever life takes them.

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