Christmas And Chanukah: Balancing Two Holidays In Our Home

When Christmas is everywhere, how can you make your kids see the importance of Chanukah, too?

I grew up looking forward to Chanukah each year. I love lighting the candles on my own menorah, playing dreidel with my brother and stealing his chocolate coins. I love latkes (my mom makes a mean latke!) and jelly donuts (called sufganiyot), singing Chanukah songs and opening Chanukah presents. Some of my fondest memories from childhood surround this time of year.

I’d see Christmas decorations everywhere, and hear Christmas music wherever I went and asked my mom why Santa skipped our house (I think I was told that he saw the mezuzah on our door and knew we didn’t celebrate so he skipped us). There wasn’t much by way of Chanukah excitement outside our house so my parents went out of their way to make it as fun as possible for us inside. They didn’t disappoint!

Fast forward about 25 years. I am now married to wonderful man who grew up celebrating Christmas. Because of that, my two children get the best of both worlds; two holidays!

For me, it is very important that they feel equally excited about both holidays. I don’t know why it’s so important. I think a big part of it is that my memories and the traditions of Chanukah are wonderful, that I want my children to experience them, enjoy them and then pass them on to their own children. It’s an added challenge for me compared to my parents because my children still have Christmas to look forward to. Not to mention a world outside, in the media, in the malls, in the streets and pretty much everywhere they go, that gets them excited about Christmas without me having to do anything!

Every year we break out our menorah (this year the kids will get their own) and each night we light the candles, sing the blessings and watch as they burn. We get together with our family and play dreidel, eat latkes and donuts, light the candles and exchange gifts.

Then, anywhere from the next day to 3 weeks later, depending on how the calendar falls, the kids wake up to a pile of presents from family and Santa under the tree. We set up with lights and ornaments, some store bought, some handmade. We all open presents and have a huge breakfast that usually involves chocolate chip pancakes (my injection to the tradition) followed hours later by a massive lunch/dinner surrounded by family. We attend a candle light service at the church by my in laws’ and sing Christmas carols. 

My children are blessed to have family who lives so close that they can celebrate these holidays the way they are meant to be celebrated, surrounded by family. My children are blessed to have not one, but two holidays they get to celebrate and be a part of (and the wack of gifts they get over the course of the month is a serious score!). They are also blessed to have not one, but two entirely different but equally special family traditions to be a part of and to have to pass on to their own children.

This time of year is, at least for our family, about tradition. It’s about family time, coming together, slowing down and showing appreciation for each other. It’s about making each other happy and building memories.

Maybe Chanukah isn’t everywhere the way Christmas is. But this holiday season isn’t really about what goes on outside the house anyway. It’s about what goes on inside, as we find our own path and traditions and memories to share, build and foster. 

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