More celebration stories
My wife, Suzanne, and I have been married
for 16 years. I am Jewish and Suzanne is Irish Catholic.
While we are raising our two children . Rachel, 15,
and Christopher, 13 . Catholic, we have made a conscious
effort to expose our children to both religions. At
the holiday time, our home has all the Christmas decorations
that you would expect to see including a live tree,
Spode dinnerware and lots of wreaths, garland and poinsettias.
We also proudly display a menorah.
Ironically, my sister, Robin, is also married to an
Irish Catholic (who has since converted to Judaism)
but her two children are being raised in the Jewish
faith. Since we have been married, Robin has been responsible
for hosting the Jewish holidays of Rosh Hashanah, Yom
Kipper and Passover, which are the holiest holidays
in the Jewish religion.
From the first year we were married, Suzanne graciously
offered to celebrate Hanukkah at our house. Over the
years, the celebration has grown from a small family
gathering of our two families (my parents have lived
in Florida for more than 20 years, so they do not attend)
to a much larger gathering that now includes some of
Suzanne's family and our friends (both Jew and Gentile).
Over the past few years, 20-25 people have attended
our typical Hanukkah celebrations. All the traditional
holiday fare is served, including latkes, matzo ball
soup, kugel, brisket and noodle pudding. Suzanne does
all the cooking herself, which requires days of preparation
but only takes about 20 minutes to consume. According
to my nephew, Suzanne's brisket is the best. The meal
always gets rave reviews. An invitation to Hanukkah
is highly sought after by the families of Suzanne's
five brothers and sisters.
This year's celebration presented a dilemma for us.
The first night of Hanukkah is Christmas day and it
is our family's turn to host Christmas this year. Christmas
dinner for Suzanne's family means preparing a holiday
meal for at least 33 people. After much discussion,
we think that we have come up with a reasonable solution:
We are inviting my sister for Christmas and plan on
including some of the traditional Hanukkah meal as
part of our Christmas dinner. This year, brisket and
latkes will be included on the Christmas table.
We have five children with two mixed marriages. I am
Jewish and we have 10 grandchildren.
It is important for the grandchildren to be aware of
both holidays. This year we are celebrating Hanukkah
at my son's house in Howell. We get lists of what the
grandchildren, whose ages range from 5 to 18, would
We also have one daughter and two grandchildren living
in Kansas. We try to send gifts on time for both holidays.
When we married 15 years ago (I am Catholic and my
wife is Jewish), the holidays were very important to
us. We agreed that we would take the fondest holiday
traditions from each of our past and create new blended
holiday traditions that we could cherish for years
Today we have two children, ages 12 and 8, and "Christmukkah''
has become a great tradition in our house. Our house
is festively decorated with all the trimmings and symbols
of both holidays including a Christmas tree, a menorah,
along with both Christmas and Hanukkah stockings. The
children also get into the act, decorating their bedrooms
in festive Christmukkah motif.
We celebrate Hanukkah the traditional way, exchanging
gifts each night after our children help my wife recite
the Hanukkah prayer and light a candle on the menorah.
Making the perfect potato latkes has become my mission
every year. After years of perfecting the recipe, my
Jewish mother-in-law has finally given me her approval.
Being from Italian decent, Christmas is celebrated
with the 3 F's: fish, food and fun. Keeping in mind
the reason for the season, we go to Christmas Mass
so our children can learn and understand the true meaning
of the holiday. Santa arrives Christmas morning and
the gifts are once again plentiful.
It has been such a joy for us to be able to embrace
and celebrate Christmukkah in our house over the years,
enjoying each others holiday and traditions, and being
able to pass those traditions along to our children.
Mario and Michelle Lupia
After many years of marriage, celebrating Christmas
and Hanukkah simultaneously for a Roman Catholic wife
and a Jewish husband has become a breeze. One must
divide the holidays into three parts (like All Gaul).
Symbolic: Our tree stands in the living room, and the
menorah is in the dining room.
Gifts: No problems here. All children and grandchildren
are cared for. Note that half of the children and grandchildren
have chosen one religion or the other.
Religiosity: This is the toughest, but we have learned
over the years how to cope. Fortunately, I am a Reform
Jew and do not abide by the tenets of Glatt Kosher
and my wife is an excellent cook. Attendance at both
church and synagogue presents no problem.
Incidently, I recommend the most humorous play I have
ever seen, "My Father is Jewish. My Mother is
Italian. I'm in Therapy'' with Steven Solomon.
Religion is part of our lives, and although we choose
different paths to communicate with the Supreme Being,
we seek to attain the same goal.
Our family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas.
Myself being raised in a Roman Catholic home and my
husband being raised in a Jewish home, we have decided
to enrich our the lives of our four children with the
aspects of both of our religions. We chose this way
for the reason that we would like our children to be
able to choose what religion they would like to be,
or enjoy both.
Each year we decorate our home with both a Christmas
tree and a menorah. My husband will light the candles
each night of Hanukkah with our children present to
hear the prayers he recites. Our in-laws have Hanukkah
dinner in their home for us and give gifts from "Grandma
and Grandpa Hanukkah.''
On Christmas morning, we celebrate the Catholic holiday
as a regular Christian family would. Although we have
not introduced our children to the church or to Jewish
services, they are aware of why we celebrate each holiday
the way we do and they love being lucky enough to learn
and celebrate the holidays and practices of both the
Catholic and Jewish religions.
Growing up in Belmar, my family always had a menorah
and a Christmas tree. There was a gift every night
on Hanukkah and even more gifts under the tree on Christmas
morning. It wasn't about religion as much as it was
about two different ethnic backgrounds that had evolved
into several loving families that changed their lifestyles
for the good of the family.
My maternal great-grandmother had come to America from
Germany at the turn of the century. She was a Kruschka
and married a Cohen. She decided to convert to Judaism
for her husband and from that day on, the Jewish religion
was always celebrated at the holidays, but there was
always Christmas decoration and tradition in the background.
The Cohen family would have two daughters and three
sons. One son, Jerome, converted to Catholicism and
changed his name to Collins when he married an Italian.
One daughter, Helen, would marry a non-Jew and also
convert. My Uncle Jerry would always dress up as Santa
on the holidays and bring presents to my brother, Louis,
and myself every Christmas. My brother and my two cousins
would always go to our Aunt Helen and Uncle Virgil's
home in Deal and decorate the Christmas tree.
At the same time, the other Cohen children married
within the Jewish religion. My grandmother, Georgia,
married a Silverstein, and she continued the Jewish
traditions, mixed in with some of her mother's Christmas
traditions. We would spin the dreidel and light the
menorah, but we would also have coal in our hand-knitted
stockings and plenty of gifts under the tree.
My mother, Gail, would make tons of Christmas cookies
and my father, Bill, would eat them. It was not about
religion as much as it was about tradition. Our family
always celebrated the Jewish faith, but we didn't want
to forget the ethnic background from where our ancestors
came. Whether this was done consciously or not, it
enriched the holidays even more.
My paternal grandfather would also dress up as Santa
Claus and not only did that give us more gifts, but
we also had a skinny Jewish Santa Bram and a heavy
Who could ask for anything more? Well, I guess I could.
Because somewhere along the line, my life would come
We weren't a very religious family and I guess some
of our traditions became more commercialized over time.
Now that I am married to an Israeli . I might not ever
see a Christmas tree again in my home . my Jewish heritage
and celebration of the holidays is becoming more enriched.
While my brother's two daughters are being raised as
Catholics, their blood is still rich in Judaism and
I think that is what is important to remember: The
holidays are not as much about religion as they are
about family. And the fact that we can celebrate our
different traditions together is what makes Christmas
and Hanukkah so special for me and my family.
Benjamin E. Bram
Spring Lake Heights
This is our first holiday together and I can hardly
wait to see how others make this all "click.''
I have always put up my little artificial tree and
a small amount of Christmas decorations on Thanksgiving
weekend while Mitch rarely did any Hanukkah decorating.
I think he was a little surprised by how infectious
my enthusiasm is.
Days before Thanksgiving, I pulled my tree out of the
basement and tried to find a spot where a four-foot
tree would not look ridiculous in the big living room
with vaulted ceilings and open floor plan. Putting
the tree on small tables and large stereo speakers
did no good, so we decided we needed a 7 1/2-footer.
Having a fairly large tree left me feeling that we
would have to add more Hanukkah decorations to "even
With these decisions made, we needed to go shopping.
There are numerous places to buy any size and style
Christmas tree, but finding Hanukkah decorations was
more of a challenge. We did get a lighted menorah and
Jewish star for the windows on either side of the tree
as well as a string of lights and some garland. This
was just enough when combined with his old paper decorations
to balance things a bit.
For the front lawn, we decided the best compromise
was winter lights. Some lighted snowflakes, blue lights
on an outdoor tree and colored lights on a nearby bush
brightened things nicely without worrying about competition
between "my'' lights and "his.''
Christmas Eve will be a cozy night with a fire burning
while we watch old Christmas movies. Early Christmas
morning we will open presents, and Sunday afternoon
will be a small family dinner of kielbasa and ham.
On Monday, we go to his sister's for a traditional
latke dinner with family. We will host dinner one of
the other nights of Hanukkah. We will also celebrate
Yule with his daughter during this busy, exciting,
wonderful holiday season.
I am getting quite an education on the differences
and similarities in holiday traditions and celebrations.
The main ingredient no matter what you celebrate is
the special people you get to share with.
My partner and I have celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah
as a biritual holiday for the past 13 years. He is
a South African Jew and I am a Polish Catholic. We
met as adults and brought into our relationship two
constellations of family and friends who have melded
into a marvelous universe of affection, respect and
For us both, these holidays epitomize the meaning of
family and Christmas. And as a gay couple, we are fortunate
also to have an extended of family of "choice''
who also share in our holidays' festivities.
Growing up, Christmas Eve was always more important
in my family than Christmas day primarily because of
the richness of the tradition and the meagerness of
money available for presents for a family of seven.
Wigilia was our Christmas Eve dinner. It was meatless
and filled with aromas and tastes specific to this
once-a-year meal and always had an odd number of dishes
in honor of the Three Kings. The table was set with
hay beneath the white tablecloth and under each child's
plate was usually a shiny coin . . . better years yielding
a quarter and lesser ones a dime.
We usually have a number of children at our celebration
and it gives them the opportunity to learn about the
traditions of both religions through shared stories,
Hanukkah songs, Christmas carols in both English and
Polish, and candle-lighting rituals. And as in the
past, our Christmas-Hanukkah celebration focuses on
the Wigilia meal and has become a blending of Christian
and Jewish traditions.
Once all our guests have arrived, we gather and remember
why the holidays are so important to us. We give thanks
for our lives, our friendships and for the blessings
of light in this holy season. "Baruch ata Adonai''
is sung while the menorah candles are lit, and then "Silent
Night'' while the Christmas candles around the creche
The youngest members of the group are then given "Oplatek,''
or Holy Bread, similar to the communion wafer, which
they distribute to all the guests. When everyone has
a piece of the wafer, each person turns to every other
person and breaks off a small piece of the other's
wafer and eats it and wishes that person a peace-filled
holiday. Lastly, we all join hands and remember in
particular all those people who have died and we welcome
their spirits and promise to live our lives
even more fully because they have showed us how to
And now we come to the Wigilia table, which for us
is an amalgam of Polish, Jewish and South African dishes.
Everything is homemade and all have a special meaning
for the holiday. Several dishes are prepared for that
night only and remain only a memory until next Christmas
After dinner, my partner and I distribute gifts to
all our guests as a way of saying thanks for being
with us and for making our lives so rich. And just
as everyone leaves, we give them a final gift of homemade
cookies laid out on special dishes we collect throughout
the year. This year, there will be 31 different types
of cookies . an odd number again to honor the Three
Kings of the Christmas story.
This will be our last Christmas in our home in Asbury
Park. We are moving to Cape Town, South Africa, to
retire in September 2006. This Christmas Eve will be
even more special for us and we are looking forward
to it with great anticipation.
Once again, we will be able to say to our family and
friends, Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah and may
all the days of our lives be as bountiful as our Wigilia
Tom Pivinski and Malcolm Navias
I met my husband in college and we dated for quite
some time. Certain circumstances led to our breakup
but we got back together a few years later. I realized
then that he was "the one.'' There was just one
little obstacle, though: He came from a very strict
Irish Catholic background and I grew up a Jewish girl
I do not consider myself to be very religious, but
I am a huge traditionalist. I absolutely knew that
I wanted to raise a Jewish family. I didn't want my
husband to convert or lose his identity but he needed
to know that if we did get married his children's religion
would be different from his own. He was fine with it
then, he was fine with it during our wedding ceremony
and after 11 years of marriage and two beautiful children
later, he is still fine with the decision that he made.
Both of our sons went to Shaari Emeth Early Learning
Center for preschool. It was there that they were taught
all of the beautiful prayers, songs and holiday traditions
that the Jewish faith has to offer. For a few years,
we even celebrated Shabbat dinners with friends that
are as close to us as family.
Every Hanukkah since my first son was born I have hosted
a Hanukkah party. My sons are blessed to have a great-grandmother
still alive, so she attends along with maternal grandparents,
aunts, uncles, cousins and friends. My mother makes
a delicious brisket and, as far as I'm concerned, the
best potato latkes around. It is a great day and the
boys are growing up with a wonderful family tradition
and they are definitely aware that they are being brought
up in a Jewish home.
However, there is still something so magical and special
about Christmastime. Just so my husband doesn't feel
left out and feel like he is missing something, we
created another tradition. We decided to embrace the "it's
what you give, not what you receive'' philosophy of
the holiday season.
Every year since we moved into this house, we set aside
two days in December and we bake cookies for some of
our neighbors, family and friends. We have seen neighbors
come and go but we stay true to this tradition. After
we pack up the cookies in tins, we then pack up the
boys in the car and we deliver the cookies together
as a family. This shows our boys how great it feels
to give something without expecting anything in return.
On Christmas Eve, we load up the car and head up north.
My mother-in-law lives in Massachusetts and this is
where the boys get to celebrate the joys of Christmas.
Christmas doesn't come to them . we bring them to Christmas.
Her house is all decorated and the tree is beautifully
lit. The house smells delicious because she has been
baking and cooking for weeks.
On Christmas day, the boys wake up to presents under
the tree. They can't wait to tear open the presents
to see what Santa has brought for them. The older they
get, my mother-in-law tries to teach them the meaning
of Christmas. They don't go to church, but they will
learn to respect that this holiday is not all about
I am happy that right now in their lives they get to
grab hold of the magic of Christmas. Who knows how
many years of wonder are left until they start asking
questions, and then all the magic will be gone? Jewish
or Catholic, I feel like Christmas can truly be a day
for everyone. It's just so special when you get to
see it through the eyes of a child.
My husband and I feel truly blessed with our family.
Everyone told us how hard it is going to be to have
two different religions in a marriage. I feel my children
are growing up with the best of both worlds. Sometimes
I feel more religious then families with all one religion
because we have to work that much harder to keep the
Jewish faith alive.
I also get to make extra brownie points with my mother-in-law
because she never has to share us with my side of the
family for Christmas. She gets us all to herself every
year for the rest of our lives.
My family celebrates both Christmas and Hanukkah.
The entire side of the family on my mother's side celebrates
all the Catholic holidays, most prominently Christmas.
My father's side of the family is the typical conservative
Jewish family. They celebrate all the Jewish holidays,
while consistently attending synagogue.
While both sides of my family have different religions,
they have all come down the line to my current family,
which celebrates both. My parents have two different
faiths, and so celebrating only one holiday at the
end of the year would not justify our family's values.
This is why I celebrate both holidays, and this is
why I love this time of year.
When anyone asks me what religion I am, I always respond "Jewish''
because I did attend Hebrew school when I was younger
and I did have a bar mitzvah. However, I feel just
as much a part of the Catholic religion as the Jewish
religion because we still celebrate Christmas and other
holidays, such as Easter.
I can say that I am probably in a very small group
in that I have a Christmas tree in a home where my
father, my sister and I all had a bar or bat mitzvah.
Even on my bar mitzvah video, many of my relatives
said they enjoyed spending Christmas with me . that
didn't go well with the rabbi.
My living room and my den are always half and half
when the holidays arrive. The menorah will be set up
on one side of the room, and the electronic Santa Claus
will be on the other side. It is almost as if the two
sides are contrasting each other, and yet they form
one central idea of the holiday season.
Whenever someone I know realizes that I celebrate both
holidays, they immediately feel jealous because, naturally,
they believe I get twice the amount of presents. This
not true. For Hanukkah, I only receive a small gift
two or three nights, instead of all eight, and this
is a prerequisite to less presents on Christmas. For
me, this is OK, because the holidays really aren't
about receiving gifts. Most 14-year-olds will say otherwise,
but I believe the intangibles are the true meaning
of the holidays.
Whether it is Christmas or Hanukkah, they are the reason
the mood of the household may change, or they may cause
a feeling of love, or they might even bring out a side
of a person never seen before. Many say that the holiday
season has a feeling of magic surrounding it. Ultimately,
the intangibles are the source to all the magic, and
this is why I love celebrating both holidays.
Westchester, N.Y.; his grandparents live in Toms River