When people get married, they are supposed to combine family traditions in a way that works for the new family that is created. For the past three years, the holidays always made us reflect on our family, the traditions we grew up with, and the traditions we wanted to start with we kids. For us when our first Christmas married overlapped with Chanukah we went to Christmas Eve with relatives, lit our menorah and ate Chinese food and enjoyed the movies on Christmas Day. Our second year married we spent Christmas with my family, and for Chanukah we ate jelly donuts while watching Zoolander after lighting our menorah with his friends. This year, with two kids in the picture, we want to do both holidays right.
Here is our plan:
- Decorate for Christmas. We do this in the Colombian tradition. My Cuban-Colombian family has always had a huge Pesebre. I start setting this up the first Sunday after thanksgiving.
- Decorate for Chanukah. We take our menorah out and put it in the window. Our Chanukah themed oven mittens come out, and we add the star of David to our tree.
- Go to a Menorah Lighting. All over Boca Raton there are great celebrations of Chanukah! There are many ways to publicly celebrate the 8 day remembrance of the triumph of the Jewish people over their enemies and the rededication of the temple. My husband especially loves the menorah lighting at the Coconut Creek Promenade just over the county line. This year we are also going to go to Hoffman’s Chocolates for their menorah lighting, and chocolates.
- Educate our children. During Chanukah we will read our children the story of Chanukah while we light our menorah with our kids. We do this for eight nights at sunset. Then will pray to God and sing Rock of Ages. Finally will tell our children about my husband’s ancestors.
- Attend a Christmas service. My church observes the month of December by participating in Advent, a time where we make our hearts ready to welcome Jesus, by reviewing all of the prophecies regarding his coming. It is a nice way of focusing on the traditional meaning of Christmas.
- Send Holiday cards. Whether you are Jewish or Christian, holiday cards are a great way to bridge the holidays. Each year we send out about 40 holiday cards, and we love recieving holiday cards as well. Our daughter especially loves receiving cards in the mail. She loves the pictures. We always try to send out pictures that have not been posted on social media so our relatives have something new to look forward too.
- Eat! Because no holiday celebration could be complete without food, we will eat latkes and jelly donuts during Chanukah, and have Colombian tamales and arepas during Christmas. Food is the easiest was for someone who is on the outside to feel like an insider. For example the first time my husband ate tamales he almost ate the banana leaf that Colombians cook the masa in. Now he is a pro, and can tell others the right way to eat a tamal. And the first time I make him latkes, I burnt them to a crisp and tried to cover them in maple syrup, but now I know the best way to cook them, and that apple-sauce or sour cream go best with latkes.
For us it is fun to combine our family backgrounds. It is a way to enlighten our children on the diversity they have within themselves. We’re not perfect, but each year we get better at observing both. We want to do each tradition justice keeping the integrity of the day intact. It is also important for us to share with our children our own values. We don’t ever want traditions to become obligations, but we want these traditions to feel at home for our children. At first it might seem daunting or confusing, but with respect to both families, it is possible to create a meaningful season for our new family.
Are you from a diverse family? Does your family celebrate multiple backgrounds this time of year? Let us know how you do it in the comments!