Happy Hanukkah!

December 20, 2011

Did you know Hanukkah begins this evening?

I know very little about Jewish holidays and customs, but I always wish I knew more — my father’s side of the family is Jewish and it would make sense to infuse our home life with more knowledge about this part of our heritage. Plus, I wouldn’t say no to a pewter menorah.

I suppose part of my lack of knowledge comes from the fact that though my relatives are Jewish, they aren’t practicing — in fact, my grandmother, Ruth Shainwald, embroidered Christmas stockings for all my children. : ) Do any of you celebrate mixed religious customs at your house? Have you figured out a good balance?

P.S. — To all you celebrating the Festival of Lights, Happy Hanukkah!

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jenni Bailey December 20, 2011 at 3:03 pm

We never have before but this year my five-year-old informed me that, in addition to Christmas, she would like to celebrate Hanukkah and Kwanzaa. And, since I am all for acceptance and diversity, I’m going to do some googling and at least throw together a few crafts and stories to share with her.


2 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 9:06 am

What a good mom you are! In one of the Kirtsy slideshows this week, I noticed some easy-to-put-together menorahs. Maybe you can make one!


3 Larry Linn December 24, 2011 at 3:13 pm

Have a Happy Hanukkah!


4 Barchbo December 20, 2011 at 3:23 pm

I practice Christianity but we started celebrating Jewish holidays when we lived in Boca Raton. I had the privilege of attending Seders, Hanukkah dinners, and being plied with hamentashen every Purim. We informally celebrate all Jewish holidays – it’s part of our Christian heritage, after all.
Latkes all around, tonight! I have pledged that one year I am going to make my own applesauce.

Note: I don’t fast on Yom Kippur. Like I said, informally celebrate.


5 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 9:16 am

I hadn’t thought of that, Barchbo! But you’re right, it IS part of our Christian heritage. Neato!


6 amy December 20, 2011 at 3:55 pm

My husband and daughter are Jewish. I am nothing but was raised catholic. We do Santa and a tree and stockings but beyond that we don’t celebrate christian holidays (like Easter). I love the Jewish holidays and the ritual that surrounds them. Off to light the candles!


7 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 9:17 am

The rituals are what fascinates me too!


8 se7en December 20, 2011 at 4:29 pm

We decided to take a break from Christmas last week and learn about Hanukkah… We had such fun reading and crafting and baking, of course we blogged it!!! http://www.se7en.org.za/2011/12/15/se7en-learn-about-hanukkah-with-dreidels-menorahs-and-latkes


9 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 9:18 am

So fun that you took “break from Christmas”. Cute!


10 Jessica December 20, 2011 at 5:01 pm

We celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas. I was raised Christian and Jewish and my husband was raised Christian. We are trying to teach our children the traditions of both religions. Tonight, we lit the menorah and then plugged in the Christmas tree lights. I think the biggest and hardest thing is to make sure that they understand and appreciate both sides.


11 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 9:18 am

Good for you to make the effort, Jessica!


12 Bek December 20, 2011 at 5:06 pm

We are Christian, but my 7 year old son is obsessed with Judism, stemming from an early love of Fiddler on the roof, and tells me every day he wants to be a Rabbi. We informally celebrate it too!!


13 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 9:19 am

Oh Bek! That is the greatest thing ever. Could he be more adorable?


14 Pamela Balabuszko-Reay December 20, 2011 at 5:24 pm

Have you ever heard of Krista Tippett from Public Radio’s On Being show? She is an amazing interviewer (and author). Her show is described as being about religion, meaning, ethics and ideas. You can go to the website and browse through the archives. Just this past weekend she aired an interview with a Jewish author and historian that was really lovely. She has had many Jewish voices on her show. She had a great interview with a Morman recently too! You may really like her Gabrielle. The rest of y’all too.
In our family Christmas is celebrated as a custom. We are Unitarian Universalists. We tell the Christmas story in church- but to us Jesus is a great teacher. We are not Christians. The biggest celebration in our church calendar is for Winter Solstice. It is really beautiful. We have 12 minutes of meditation in the dark. All 900 of us. Then one-by- one candles are lit to represent to return of the light.
I am personally really in love with a lot of the Jewish stories and customs. I find a lot of beauty in many traditions. I try to make sure my kids are developing a curiosity about the faiths of everyone else. We have so much to learn from each other!


15 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 9:20 am

I love Public Radio, but I don’t think I’ve heard of Krista Tippet. I’ll have to look her up!


16 Jenny also December 20, 2011 at 5:50 pm

We’re Jewish and my boys are bouncing off the walls with excitement for the upcoming 8 nights of Hannukah that begins tonight. Although we celebrate only Jewish and secular holidays in our home my boys are certainly very aware of Christmas which is all around us. I try to stress the commonality of holidays that feature bringing light into the darkest days of Winter, respect for those who are different from us (no going to kindergarten telling other kids Santa isn’t real!), and just how wonderful it is to be a Jewish famiiy with such a rich culture and evolving belief system.
May the many lights of this holiday season remind us of the Divine Light that shines within each of us!


17 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 9:15 am

“holidays that feature bringing light into the darkest days of Winter”

I love that, Jenny!!


18 Sonja December 20, 2011 at 6:36 pm

I love this thread – it is always so nice to read about the different ways that people celebrate the holidays. I have always celebrated Christmas – because it is just what we did, but love the idea of exposing my kids to lots of different beliefs and customs.


19 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 9:14 am

I remember loving that about our school in New York — there were so many nationalities and traditions represented. It was nice to learn a bit about everything.


20 LH December 20, 2011 at 7:58 pm

We only celebrate Christmas. To me it doesn’t make much sense to celebrate “holy days” that I don’t consider holy! We do Santa, but discuss how he is Saint Nick giving us presents on Jesus’ birthday because he loves Jesus.


21 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 9:21 am

Santa is such a fun excuse to give anonymous gifts. I love that!


22 Sam December 20, 2011 at 8:45 pm

My husband is Jewish but does not know much himself (or maybe he just doesn’t like to share). We will celebrate Hanukkah on Thursday, Swedish Christmas on Christmas eve, and American on Christmas day. It’s a packed schedule.


23 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 9:13 am

Wow! So multi-cultural. I’ll bet your kids love that!


24 Ren Lady Of The Arts December 20, 2011 at 9:35 pm

We celebrate Hanukkah- this is what we ate tonight:



25 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 9:11 am

That looks soooo yummy!


26 Sharon December 20, 2011 at 10:43 pm

First, Gabrielle I love that you asked! We are Jewish and only celebrate the Jewish and secular holidays.

LH, you don’t have to consider a holiday ‘holy’ to learn about it and celebrate with others. What I tell my kids about Christmas can go both ways: it’s like being at a friend’s birthday party… the party isn’t for you, but you can have a great time celebrating with your friend(s)!


27 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 9:10 am

I like the birthday party metaphor, Sharon!


28 Mix December 21, 2011 at 6:38 am

Hi Gab!!!!!!

As always, I looooooooove every single post u make… the thing is that u r so magical in the way u treat everything around u, that makes me love u and want to meet u hahahaha!!!! It’s almost as if I already know u for a looong time, as if we were nighbors hahahahaha! U r the best!!! Thank u for being such a kind sharing all the awsome things u share with us!!!
First of all, hope everything is fine with all yours…

second, I’m jewish, but we live outside Israel, actually we live in Brasil, so, here, being the country of samba and carnaval, we don’t have much of choice to not celebrate everything all the time, hahahahhaa… Me and my friends like to stay together and have a special meal in X-mas. We don’t celebrate the birth of Jesus, but we like to stay together and celebrate the union, the love and friendship, which I think that are also important things of X-mas…
For us, jewish, is hard to full celebrate every “chag” – jewish holliday- the way it’s celebrate in israel and even in US… the products are waaay too expensive for us to buy, people have to work in the time we have to light the candles or be at the synagoge… but in mixing all together- and puting some “brazilian sauce” I think we found a way to have the best of both holidays together….!!!!!

Gab, I really wish u the best time with all your familly in this holidays to come… Hope the lights of hanuka will light your wishes and help them to come true…



29 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 9:09 am

I’ll bet the holidays in Brasil are wonderful! It seems like such an open welcoming place. (I would love to meet you too!)


30 Mix December 22, 2011 at 2:20 pm

whenever u come to visit our brazilian cities, beaches and partys, you’ll be always welcome… specially here in Sao Paulo, where I live!!!



31 shadygrove December 21, 2011 at 8:57 am

I don’t know why learning you have Jewish heritage is so moving to me, but it is!

I used to call myself “half-jewish.” My father is Jewish, although not terribly observant, and my mother is Christian; growing up we celebrated both holidays, but religious identity has always been a thorny, complicated thing for me.

But this year my family — husband, son, and I — converted to Judaism formally, after a couple of years of deeper and deeper exploration of Judaism. That’s been really wonderful, and we love the rich customs and rituals that make Jewish life so beautiful. We love Shabbat, especially the magical Havdalah ceremony at the end, and the Jewish holidays — including Chanukah.

But we decided to continue to allow Santa to visit as long as our son expects him, and we still have a tree, and we will still celebrate Christmas with my parents. My rabbi objected to this, but I told him: I don’t see anything in the Torah that says “Don’t allow Santa Claus to bring gifts.” But I do see that it commands: “Honor thy mother and thy father.” I’m not interested in hurting my mom or throwing her traditions back in her face, so as long as it makes her happy and feels appropriate to me, we’ll be celebrating Christmas.

It feels a little awkward to me this year in a way that celebrating both holidays never did before — as if I have to explain or apologize for it. But I’m moving through it gently, and I’m trusting God to guide my heart to the right thing, which has always worked before. A loving, open heart isn’t going to lead me to the wrong place, I’m certain.


32 Design Mom December 21, 2011 at 9:08 am

Your comment left me emotional. I love how respectful you are of your parents, and I love how you speak of God. Thank you!


33 Ashley December 21, 2011 at 7:02 pm

What an interesting topic! Reading all these comments reminds me of the time I asked my parents why Jesus was Jewish but we were Mormon. I also remember in a ward Christmas party years ago, all the primary kids got dreidles and learned how to play the game. You have inspired me to go research Jewish culture more. I believe that learning about others beliefs help us become more accepting and loving of all people.


34 Robin December 22, 2011 at 1:02 pm

I celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas. I love the tradition of lighting the candles of the menorah. I think it is so beautiful, and gets more beautiful as the 8 nights of Hanukkah progress. I often have a Hanukkah dinner with friends – this week we had three menorahs to light. To me both holidays are a chance to be grateful for family, friends and the bounty of all we enjoy on earth.


35 Mrs. Cox December 27, 2011 at 4:26 pm

That is a lovely menorah! My husband is currently on a journey towards Judaic conversion. From the get-go I’ve supported him and have welcomed changes in our small family’s lifestyle. Though it hasn’t been completely accepted with open minds like we had hoped from extended family.

This is our second year celebrating Chanukah and I was very much looking forward to it. Forging our own little traditions, learning more about the history, and perfecting my own latke and sufganiyot recipes ;) It’s been a wonderful experience!


36 Emme December 30, 2011 at 8:54 pm

My husband is Jew-ish and we have moved to mostly just celebrating the Jewish holidays but we love a good Christmas tree. We try to stick to what is important to us and be open to our families at their homes.

Target and Crate and Barrel seem to get more and more decorations this year. Last year there was hardly anything and this year there were solidly three shelves. I believe World Market had a section of decor as well, because it’s hardly a holiday if deck the stars.


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