Now that Thanksgiving is officially over, it’s time to start thinking about the next holidays coming up. For some, that’s Christmas. For others, that’s Hanukkah. For me, it’s both.
Let me start by explaining that I am Jewish. But I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee – not exactly a hotbed of Judaism. Sure, it has one of the largest Jewish populations in the south, but that wasn’t always the case.
My great-great-grandparents started a family business there and the business was handed down through the generations (until recently, but that’s not relevant here). The business closed on all major holidays, including Christmas. So, my family just decided at some point to celebrate Christmas – in a secular, “deck the halls” kind of way. It was a time that the whole family was together and not working, so why not enjoy each other’s company and have a cup of cheer?
But, as I said above, we’re Jewish. So, we celebrate Hanukkah, too.
Once I was old enough to understand all of this, I was completely confused.
I have gone back and forth on whether this whole thing makes sense.
Regardless of whether it makes sense, it is a part of who I am. It’s how I grew up. It’s how I’m raising my children.
My friend Cynthia described it this way: “One of my favorite things about you is the happy amalgamation you have put together of religious and secular holiday traditions. I joke about the Christmas tree, but I love it (to be honest, mine is no more religious in concept than yours, despite being raised Catholic). It’s quirky, but in an inclusive we’ll-take-the-best-of-everything sort of way. Happy everything!”
I thought that was one of the best compliments I’d ever received, and one of the best explanations of how my family has approached the holidays.
I try to do that – make our holiday traditions that happy amalgamation. The spirit of each holiday is what we celebrate here. No, we don’t celebrate the birth of Jesus the way that my Christian friends do, but we celebrate fellowship, family, sharing, giving, love. And we celebrate Hanukkah and the miracle of the oil lasting eight days, along with fellowship, family, sharing, giving, and love.
So, as I prepare for my annual holiday extravaganza, I’m thankful for my happy amalgamation. It may be confusing, but it’s wacky and full of love and fun.
Sarah Bégo says
In France Christmas is called “Noël” and because the word is not obviously making reference to the birth of the Christ many French people who are atheist, jewish or even muslim celebrate Noel as a tradition and not like a religious celebration. It’s a the occasion to spend some time with your family.
I personally have jewish ancestors on my mom side but we’ve never celebrate any kind of Jewish Holidays. (The second world war is definitely responsible for the loss of the traditions in my family.)
But we’ve always celebrate Christmas as a family tradition. (The second world war is definitely responsible for the loss of the jewish traditions in my family.)
Karen Cooper says
I love that, Sarah! Thank you!