It’s that time of year where dual holiday celebrators, like myself, start to trim the tree and light the lights. My situation is not uncommon: plenty of children belong to blended families where they may celebrate multiple holidays. For me, during the winter months, I celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah. This is due to the fact that I was born and raised in a Jewish household but have also explored Christianity. I’ve also been able to participate in a variety of other holidays and traditions. All of these experiences have brought me much joy and have shaped me into the person I am today.
Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ. We honor his birth by having our communities come together and celebrate the gift of giving. The main reason we give presents to one another is due to the wise men giving Jesus three gifts. For the children, there is the fantastical character of Santa Claus who gives presents to familes all across the world. However, the best gift of all is the sense of community and love.
Each year for Christmas, I usually go to my grandparent’s house. In the past, we’ve gone to church during the holidays. My extended family and I all gather together for this holiday and practice these Christmas traditions. We eat a great dinner on Christmas night and get up early for Christmas breakfast. Then, we open presents that we have given to each other. What’s most important is surrounding yourself with love and giving to the community. Not only does this holiday allow people to spend time with one another, but it also reminds people to continue these traditions of giving. My family donates to charity, especially during this time. Giving to people and spreading joy is the main focus of Christmas and is something I truly value.
Hanukkah, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a celebration where we commemorate two miracles that occurred many years ago. The Jewish people were being oppressed and forced from their homes. Despite being outnumbered, this community was able to fight back and reclaim their land and temple. In olden times, lamps were lit by the use of oil. In Jewish tradition, there needs to be an eternal flame lit at all times in the temple. When the Jews reclaimed their temple, there was only enough oil to light the eternal flame for one night. This flame lasted for eight whole nights, just long enough for the Jews to replenish their supply of oil before the flame went out. Now, we honor these miracles by continuing the traditions of lighting the Menorah and eating foods that are made with oil.
I primarily celebrate Hanukkah with my dad and my loved ones at my synagogue. Each of the eight nights, we sing prayers as well as songs about Hanukkah. We also play with a spinning top called a dreidel. On each side of the four-sided top, there is a Hebrew letter. These letters are meant to represent the phrase ‘great miracle happened there.’ This is a fun game that families, particularly children, play to get rewards of chocolate coins. There are consequences to each side of the top, which helps decide who wins the game. While we are celebrating, the candles are burning low. This holiday falls at different times of the year, due to Jews following the lunar calendar. It almost always takes place during December, and it sometimes even falls on Christmas. This can make it challenging to celebrate both Hannukah and Christmas with separated parents.
It is essential to respect the holidays that people celebrate and come up with solutions if these types of conflicts arise. I know from time to time, I’ve celebrated these holidays on different dates than initially planned. This doesn’t mean that these holidays hold less meaning as a result. Life is unpredictable, and it’s important to adjust to any situation. I still uphold these traditions and have a deep love for these holidays.