What Its Like to Grow Up Celebrating Both Chanukah and Christmas

My mom is Jewish and my dad is Roman Catholic, which means I have spent my whole life celebrating Chanukah and Christmas and Easter and Passover, lighting the menorah and decorating the Christmas tree and attending both temple and mass services.  Even though these religions are conflicting, its never been a problem for my parents or my family.

Every year, we as a family spend eight days celebrating Chanukah, lighting the menorah, making latkes (potato pancakes) and applesauce and giving and opening presents. Chanukah celebrates the success of the Jews who were once suppressed by the Greeks and fought back to protect their temple and religion. They lit an oil lamp, which was only supposed to last one day, but miraculously lasted eight, hence why we celebrate and light the menorah for eight days.

Every year, my family also celebrates Christmas. On Christmas Eve we get together with the entirety of my dad’s large, Irish family; feasting, drinking and catching up around the elegantly-decorated Christmas tree. On Christmas day, we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ by attending mass and spending the whole day together as a family watching movies and playing card games.

Growing up, other kids would always look at me with wide eyes and proclaim, “So you get extra presents!?” Although it may seem like it, it was just spread out better over nine days, instead of all on the morning of December 25th. I had both Jewish and Christian friends and none of them ever seemed to think that this situation was rare. And it wasn’t until I came to college, that I realized how thankful I was to have parents who could so easily resolve conflict and accept each others’ religions. Not many people can experience both the traditions and culture of more than one religion and even less have the freedom to choose what religion they want to practice. Its slightly unconventional, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.