December 5, 2010

Many Holidays in our Household

Multiples... and More! Question of the Week - What are your families' holiday traditions?

This is a question M and I have discussed quite a bit over the past few years.  With M being Lutheran, and with me a Conservative Jew, the question of which of our own childhood's traditions will be passed along has a lot of nuances to take into consideration.  For example, the Jewish holidays run on a lunar calendar, while the secular (and Christian) world use a solar calendar.  This means that Channukah doesn't fall on the same secular calendar days each year.  This year it's early, Channukah started on December 1st.  Next year, it will start on December 20th, and run through Christmas.
SuperMommy and her super sisters light Channukah candles

This means that if we were to try to maintain the sort of holiday traditions that I had as a kid, sometimes Christmas would get trampled on a bit.  But if we ignore the Channukah traditions just because it's Christmas, it sends a clear message about which holiday is more important.  And we don't want ANY messages about some holidays being more important than others.

So far, we've established a few basics.  We will have at least as many menorahs as there are ladies in the house.  This means that we're short a few just yet, but as it's a lady's duty to light the candles I want my girls to have menorah's to think of as their own.  Each night of Channukah we'll light candles.  I would like to delineate the gift giving a little, give each child a specific night on which it is their turn to give gifts.  It is important to both me and to M to make sure that our kids understand that it's not about GETTING presents, it's about GIVING presents.  About showing the people you love how much you care, not about who gets the best stuff.

My extended in-laws... on one side
Another tradition I'll be passing on to my children is trivia for gelt.  In my family, nobody just gives you gelt for playing dreidle.  You have to answer questions about Channukah and Jewish history to get your chocolate coins.  Year after year, my mother asked my little sister the same question until she got it right- what does Channukah mean?  The answer is rededication.  I want my children to understand why we celebrate- not just that we're eating delicious latke and sufganiyot and opening presents.

As far as Christmas is concerned, we have a tree (although it's not up yet- we haven't found a baby-proof location!), but mostly it's the purview of Grandma.  We go to Minnesota to visit M's family every year for Christmas, so the actual experience of Christmas Eve and Christmas Morning are very much what M experienced as a child- there are extended family gatherings and gift exchanges, then a small family dinner with M's parents and sister and BIL on Christmas Eve, followed by opening the presents from each other.  Then we all go to bed, and in the morning open presents from "Santa," who only fills up stockings.  Then Christmas Day is a lazy adventure of watching new movies, eating junk food, and stuffing ourselves with my MIL's amazing Christmas cookies.  My first year of Christmas with my in-laws involved making a fool of myself for eating an apple that came in my stocking.  I was very happy to eat my apple, but apparently it had never been done.  After all, who eats apples when they have peanut M&M's and cookies in such abundance?
DD, my MIL, and a little cousin at last year's Christmas

We try to make it to my family's Channukah celebration, but it's trickier.  We decided when we got married that Christmas travel trumps Channukah travel, and that Passover travel trumps Easter travel.  So sometimes my family's Channukah celebration is very early, this year we had it Thanksgiving weekend.  Sometimes it's very late- a few years ago we had it well after New Year's.  And some years we don't make it at all.  It's sad for me, because I have such fond memories of my childhood Channukah's with my grandparents and great grandparents and aunts and uncles... but we all have to make sacrifices.  I'm confident that on years that Channukah and Christmas overlap, my in-laws will be happy to have my daughters lighting their menorahs by the Christmas tree.


  1. Loved hearing how you brought together your two faiths and celebrations! Awesome ideas!

  2. Julie@LifeSpace.comDecember 6, 2010 at 1:05 AM

    Great ideas. Nice ones to read.

    LifeSpace Household

  3. Your family is much like mine. Although, I was raised Lutheran and my husband Reform Judaism. Living far from both sides of our families makes family celebrations difficult. We travel to my family for Christmas and my husbands family travels to us for Passover. Our daughters are 5 years old this year and much more interested in learning what the holidays mean. I look forward to reading more about how your family handles all the holidays and traditions.



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