We are one of THOSE types of families. Yes, we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.
Well, kinda, sorta.
We have a Christmas tree and a menorah. And our Christmas tree has a dreidel ornament. But please don’t ask me too many questions about the Maccabees. My knowledge only goes so far.
My wife and I grew up celebrating Christmas, so the Jewish holidays are still rather new to us. The details of why we now celebrate them are for another time. Suffice to say that we now have dear family members who are Jewish.
Because of our joint celebrations, this is a huge week for our son.
The past two years, there was no overlap between Hanukkah and Christmas. Last year, for example, Hanukkah began in early December. So there was a clear distinction between the two holidays, and breathing room between.
But this year, come sunset this evening, all the special get-togethers and celebrations will be compressed in a few short days.
Our Hanukkah celebration
As we’ve done for the past few years, we will again be hosting a Hanukkah dinner.
Last year, for the first time, my wife made beef brisket and latkes. Okay, we got the latkes pre-made from Trader Joe’s, but my wife actually made the brisket herself.
She found a recipe from a Jewish grandmother on YouTube. Who knew that Jewish grandmothers knew how to YouTube? It was a good thing, too, as the brisket came out so well that even our guests, who have had far more briskets in their life than I, said that it was one of the best they ever had.
Of course, being parents of a child with autism, our definition of success of a party isn’t so much about whether the food is a hit but whether our son is happy and well behaved. By that standard, last year’s party was auspicious.
Kai was very excited when guests started arriving. He loves having company over, and getting to see his grandparents, aunts, uncle and cousins got him revved up. Often, he gets too excited and out of control, but this time he held it together pretty well.
He watched as his aunt lit the candles on the menorah. He was able to sit still at the table during dinner. Well, mostly. He did slip away to play “My Dreidel” on the piano several times, knowing he would have to before he could open presents. Overall he was remarkably patient, with no whining about when he could open his presents.
Of course when it was finally time, he tore into them with glee. Then all the kids played with their new toys.
This year, I am anticipating that it will be much the same. And this time it will be followed in only a few days by Christmas.
I am sometimes disappointed when my son doesn’t show interest in the same things I did as a child. But that is certainly not true of Christmas.
When I was a kid, nothing topped Christmas in terms of anticipation and excitement. I see the same thing in my son now.
The giddiness with which he looks forward to Christmas rises each year. We got our Christmas tree extra early this year because of his excitement. Hopefully we’ll still have a few needles left on it by Christmas morning. But it was worth it to see Kai’s smile. For the first time, he even climbed the ladder to help put ornaments up high.
If the past couple of years are any indication, Christmas morning will be a glorious frenzy. And I will be as happy on Christmas day as when I was a child myself.
Most families celebrate either Christmas or Hanukkah. It’s unusual to celebrate both. But the way I look at it, we have too many ordinary days as it is, and don’t celebrate life enough. So it’s nice to have an extra holiday to bring on more of these special moments with family.
Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas, everyone!