For those who celebrate Christmas, their holiday traditions are often near-sacred. They connect us to our families and people who share our faith and often transport us back to childhood. For me, Christmas has always been an extremely special time of year. Like many families, my family had a host of traditions that just had to be observed each year:
- Baking cookies from the 1001 Cookies cookbook I received when I was about 8 years old while wearing a Santa hat
- Playing Christmas music continuously, day and night, in our 5-CD shuffler
- Watching a specific list of Christmas movies: Scrooged, It's a Wonderful Life, The Bishop's Wife, While You Were Sleeping
- Decorating our tree while wearing a Santa hat
- Reading Christmas books while wearing a Santa hat (the Santa hat is a recurring theme)
- A real fire in our fireplace warming up our living room
- Candlelight services on Christmas Eve
- Seafood curry and steaks on Christmas Eve
- My middle brother throwing balled-up wrapping paper at our sweet St. Bernard, Bonnie, on Christmas morning
I could go on and on, as I'm sure you could when recalling the elements of the holiday season that make your childhood holiday memories so special.
When I met my husband, who is Jewish, I spent two Christmases happily traveling with him. The second consecutive year we were out of town for Christmas, however, I realized that I deeply missed some of my family's traditions and I started feeling a little down. While it can be challenging to blend two faiths in one household, recognizing that I wasn't willing to completely surrender my Christmas traditions meant that we have had to find a way. Here are some tips from things we've successfully implemented:
- Understand you won't follow every tradition. This is a good lesson to learn whether you marry (or live with) someone who celebrates the same holidays as you do, or not.
- Prioritize those traditions that are essential to your holiday joy, and focus on those. For me, that is: attending the candlelight service, baking at least one cookie from my 1001 Cookies cookbook, decorating the tree, reading my favorite Christmas books and watching Scrooged, the greatest movie ever made.
- Learn to adjust for those things on which you can't compromise. For me, that's Christmas music. I listen to it in the car, while out on walks and while working out. My husband doesn't love it, so I try not to invade his eardrums with it and only rarely will you hear it in our home.
- Embrace your significant others' holiday and holiday traditions. You get what you give, my friends! Our dining room, the first room you enter when entering our home, is Hanukkah Central. We have a darling table runner, Star of David candle plates, beautiful menorah, musical Hanukkah snow globe, and a few other nice items. We also include a menorah (lovingly dubbed our "menornament"), dreidel and Star of David ornaments on our trees and a few other Hanukkah-related accessories. We'd probably have more if the market for Hannukah decor was larger! Every night of Hanukkah we light the candles and sing (or attempt to sing) the Hebrew prayers.
- Marry someone very nice. My husband very sweetly indulges my love of Christmas, because he understands that it's important to me and appreciates that I (hopefully!) don't shove my beliefs and traditions down his throat. I try my best to resist my urge to turn our home into a North Pole-knock off out of respect for him. If we didn't mutually respect each other and find joy in supporting each other's interests, all four steps above would be far more difficult to implement.
It's important for me to celebrate Christmas, and it's important for my husband to feel that his beliefs and traditions are represented as well. Recognizing both of our needs is our key to enjoying our Christmukkah season.