By Robin P.
Rich and I will celebrate our 12th Chanukah/Christmas this month. People have often asked if celebrating both would be confusing for Lillianna. Not at all. Both holidays celebrate a miracle. They are also all about family and friends gathering together to share fun, laughter, memories of years gone by, delicious food and, of course, presents.
Here are some of our family's favorite Chanukah and Christmas traditions.
The Christmas morning wake up call
No matter how excited Lillianna is about Christmas morning, I am always the one who wakes up first. I bounce on her bed at 5 a.m. chanting, “It’s Christmas time! It’s Christmas time! It’s Christmas time!” in my best child-like voice. When she opens her eyes and realizes what I am saying, she smiles. I take her hand and we run to my room where we both bounce on the bed to wake up Rich. He usually groans and asks, "What time is it?" I try to hold out until 6 a.m., but that’s not always possible. Sometimes I tell a little fib and innocently say, "Oh, it's around 8 a.m., I think." He looks at the clock and sighs, "It's only 5 a.m. It'll still be Christmas in 4 more hours. Wake me up then." Lillianna and I drag him out of bed. I try to have a cup of cocoa waiting for him. This makes the transition easier.
Christmas hot chocolate always tastes better when you pick a fresh peppermint stick off the tree and let it melt in your cup. Rich calls this “Nana cocoa” because his grandmother always put a peppermint in his cup when he was a child. I love this tradition. Christmas morning always smells of chocolate peppermint in our house.
Christmas breakfast etiquette
No one can enjoy a yummy breakfast if there are a pile of presents sitting under the tree in the next room waiting to be opened. No matter how old you are, you just have to open the presents first. This makes for a more relaxed breakfast later.
An orange in Rich’s Christmas stocking always makes him smile. It reminds him of when he was a child and his Dad always put an orange in the kids' stockings. Lillianna insists on having an orange in her stocking, too. I never disappoint either one of them.
Every year I buy Lillianna a new Christmas bear with the date on it. My goal is that by the time she is 18, she will have 19 bears. She was 8 weeks old on her first Christmas so this year I will buy bear No. 9. I have so much fun finding just the right one each year.
Socks and underwear are never an exciting gift for my family so I try not to buy them any. I would love getting socks as a present, but no one ever buys them for me.
Lighting the menorah
The three of us say the blessing over the candles in Hebrew as we light the menorah each night of Chanukah. We watch the candles burn and wonder why some burn faster than others. We feel a little bit sad on the last night as the final flame burns out. I give the menorah a hug as I wrap it back in its cloth and put it back in its velvet box the following day.
Chocolate Chanukah gelt (money) is always a welcome gift. Lillianna can eat more chocolate coins than you can imagine. The foil wrappings leave a trail throughout the house just like the bread crumbs in Hansel and Gretel. When I follow the trail to her bedroom she is always holding her tummy and saying, "I think I ate too many chocolates." Maybe one day she will know her chocolate limit and stop in time. I can only hope.
My mom has always made potato latkes (pancakes) from scratch. One year when she was away for Chanukah, I tired to take her place and follow her recipe. How hard could it be? The batter was so soupy that it wouldn’t fry and I cried and cried until my sister told me to make them from a box. Everyone loved them. When I do make latkes now, it is always from the box!
Our newest tradition is one that was just started last year by my sister Kara. On Christmas day, she has our family and her fiance Peter's family to their house for an elaborate brunch. I missed it last year because I had to work, but I am looking forward to spending the day with everyone this year. Next year, Kara and Peter will celebrate their first married Chanukah/Christmas. I wonder what new tradtions we will start then?
What holiday traditions did you start for your family?
Robin P. lives with her husband and daughter in a suburb south of Boston.