“Are your parents divorced?”
A random question to get during the holidays. Of course it never comes from friends and the people who know me well, because everyone who knows me knows that my parents are high school sweethearts who have been married for 30 years and are madly in love with each other.
But usually this question comes up as soon as I talk about how I’m celebrating the holidays. The answer is always easy, “Well, we do Hanukkah with my mom and then Christmas with my dad. Since, you know, my mom is Jewish and my dad isn’t.”
Yeah, I guess it sounds like a split. But actually it means that growing up I always got to have the best of both worlds.
Every year when Hanukkah would roll around, my mom would get out the menorah, make some latkes, maybe we’d spin a dreidel and for 8 nights we exchanged a gift–one for each night of the Festival of Lights. There were the family parties with my grandparents and all of my aunts and uncles, so many latkes, and did I mention the presents? We always did the biggest and best on the first night and went from there.
And then, just a couple of weeks later (or at the same time, depending on how Hanukkah fell), it was Christmas! We had stockings hung on the fireplace, a Christmas tree, lots of parties. When I was a kid we even made cookies for Santa at my grandparents’ house and spent the night so we could celebrate with all of my aunts, uncles and cousins, many who came from California for Christmas. We made gingerbread houses, a Christmas ham, and woke up in the morning to presents under what was usually a 10 foot tree we had decorated just after Thanksgiving. At Christmas, the gifts were just with my dad. My mom had already handled hers at Hanukkah.
These days we do Christmas morning at home, followed by Chinese food and a movie–the classic Jewish Christmas–and we’re all together, which is the best part. Josh, my boyfriend and a full Jew, has even gotten in on the action. And we’re exchanging Hanukkah presents late this year, on Christmas, since I haven’t been home, but I swear, they’re exclusively Hanukkah presents…