In our home, we celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. When my kids were little, it was their anticipation, glee and total enthusiasm for all the traditions that my husband and I created to blend our two religions that made this time of year special for me. Each ritual and tradition was meet with joy – latkes and dreidels, chocolate coins and the beauty of the candles, followed by decorating the tree, hanging stockings and making cookies and writing a letter for Santa.
Each year I bought a new book for both holidays and we would spend hours reading first the Hanukkah books and then the Christmas books (and some about both). The last four nights before Christmas was (and still is) the annual reading of Dickens’ Christmas Carol in front of the fireplace. Just writing about these memories makes me feel warm, nostalgic and happy.
My kids are all in their 20’s now. Often they miss being home for Hanukkah because of school or work, but we find a way to celebrate when they do come home by just moving the holiday until we are together. For at least one night we light candles and eat latkes.
Now my favorite part of this time of year is being together. With five grown ups living in three different cities, it’s not always easy, but we have made it a pact to be together at Christmas, at least for a few days. The kids are more blase about the whole season. Presents are not as exciting at 25 as they are at 5, but they still crave and love our special traditions. I put out all the children’s books for Hanukkah and Christmas and they still get read around the fire. The Christmas Carol has been read aloud so many times that they each can recite full passages, imitating their dad’s intonation.
And then there are the stories of funny mishaps from holidays gone by or favorite experiences. We still smile when we remember my father in law’s beautiful annual poem and also his joke gifts. Each gift was hideous but yet somehow made total sense.The giving of joke gifts and books still continues and, although they groan at my asking what they are grateful for at the dinner table, their thoughtful answers make me know that they do actually enjoy the practice.
These traditions and rituals bind our small family together, making us feel that we belong to each other. That’s what I love most about this time of year.
What do you love about this time of year?
What traditions do you remember from the past? Which ones do you still keep? Why are they special?
Do you have a holiday story you want to share? Send it to me please, I’d love to read it. Just hit reply and attach it to the email or copy the story into the email, whichever is easier.
Wishing you Happy Holidays,
P.S. Family stories are your heritage. Each family has a history that no other family has. If you’re interested in the role of storytelling in your own family legacy, download my free resource 5 Questions to Ask at the Table. By telling your stories and sharing them, you keep your history, tradition and ancestors alive, and build connection within your family and across generations.