My husband's holiday memories include a giant fir tree, glittering with thousands of tiny lights and surrounded by heaps of presents just waiting to be opened on Christmas morning. But in my memories, there are not one but eight days of gift-giving, each one marked by the lighting of a Hanukkah candle.
Being an interfaith couple wasn't much of an issue for my husband and me until our son came into the picture. Suddenly, the holidays became more complicated. Should we have a tree or a menorah, or both? Would celebrating two holidays only confuse our child?
Different Faiths and Cultures, Different Traditions
Each year, thousands of families in the United States face a similar dilemma. Christmas and Hanukkah fall right around the same time on the calendar, but each has its own, very unique traditions. Christians celebrate the birth of Jesus by decorating their homes with wreaths and a tree, and giving gifts on Christmas. Jews commemorate the victory of the Maccabees and the reclamation of the Temple in Jerusalem by lighting the menorah—one candle (and one corresponding gift) for each of the eight days.
Other ethnic and religious groups have their own holidays, which can differ sharply from the Judeo-Christian traditions. African Americans celebrate a cultural holiday, Kwanzaa, in which they reaffirm the bonds of family and community with a seven-day festival of food, music, and gift-giving.
The holiday season is frantic for just about everyone, but throwing two faiths or cultures into the mix can send even the sanest family into a tailspin. We all treasure our rosy-hued childhood holiday memories, but when our holiday memories pull us in opposite directions, they can put a strain on our holiday celebration and leave our children wondering, "Am I Jewish or am I Christian?"