How Celebrating Chrismukkah Taught Me The Value Of Family Traditions
In my immediate family of six, I can’t keep track of who’s Jewish and who’s not.
My mom was raised Christian, but converted when she married my dad. Because her official conversion happened after I was born, I had to go through the whole process myself when I was 6 (which involved having a “Mikvah” and reciting Hebrew prayers, then going out to dinner and getting a very official looking Star of David necklace).
Meanwhile, my older half-siblings were raised Christian while their mom and our dad were still married, but my sister converted to Judaism when she got married.
Somehow, I also have four Christian grandparents and one Jewish one.
Like I said, it’s really confusing.
With all of that in mind, holidays growing up were amazing and all-inclusive.
We had eight full-blown nights of Hannukah (dreidel games with massive piles of gelt, latkes to feed 100 and an inappropriate number of presents), as well as one huge Christmas morning.
I got to light all of the candles and put the star on the tree (I was the favorite child back then), and it was my favorite week of the year.
But as we got older, and all started to get the hint about the whole Santa Claus thing, the traditions started to change.
When I was 6, we stopped doing Christmas morning.
FYI, parents: It is cruel and unusual punishment to take Christmas away from a 6-year-old with no explanation.
When my older siblings left home, we put a hold on Christmas altogether.
At 13, when I made my bat mitzvah, I spent a lot of time exploring my own spirituality and religious beliefs, and decided the whole “no Christmas” thing was a total crock of sh*t.
Like it or not, we were a mixed family, and it seemed silly to me to simply stop doing a tradition that brought all of us so much joy.
So I sat my parents down and laid out my argument.
I was a very persuasive preteen (who went on to be captain of the high school debate team, thank you very much), and the three of us eventually came up with a compromise that has lived on ever since.
Every year, we get a “Hanukkah bush” (which is really just a fake white Christmas tree), and decorate it with blue and white ornaments.
I've sacrificed the duty of putting the star on top (my mom is really particular about her tree decorating these days), but the whole experience became an excuse for all of us to do something together, which almost never happens.
We put everyone’s presents under the tree before the holiday starts, and every night after lighting the menorah, we sit together and pick a present to open.
My mom makes brisket and latkes, and we all sit around chatting and playing dreidel. The best part is, now that we're old enough, we get to drink Manischewitz.
On Christmas day, we go to the movies.
In all these years of holiday swapping and tradition shifting, I've learned it doesn't really matter what or how we're celebrating; what matters is we're together.
Especially now, as all six of us live in different parts of the country and my sister has a family of her own, any time we can all be together is meaningful.
And any time we can all be together with latkes, red wine and peppermint bark?