In our house we celebrate the holiday season. We write Happy Holidays and Season’s Greetings on our holiday cards for a reason – because our holiday is not just Christmas or just Hanukkah, it’s a blend. We celebrate the season. That means we give gifts a little differently too. Whether it be gelt or small gifts, we do small things the first eight gift occasions with the biggest surprises on the last night. Most years the last night is Christmas but some years it’s the last night of Hanukkah. We don’t have an advent calendar, we have a regular calendar that has all the holidays on it and we cross each day off, 365 days a year.
For me, the most difficult part of celebrating Hanukkmas is finding a way to NOT spend a fortune! Some families celebrate Hanukkah by giving just gelt each of the first night saving all the gifts for the end. Others do one small gift each of the first nights with the major gift last. Still others go wild for eight days in a row. When your family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas, things can get very pricey very fast. Perhaps you’ll gift gelt for seven nights, a gift or gifts on the eighth, and the biggest surprises for the end at Christmas. But what if Christmas falls somewhere in the middle of Hanukkah? (It will in 2016!) Look, if you’re a parent there’s probably one thing you know to be true: you must be flexible. I’m all about traditions but Hanukkah comes a different time each year so it simply can’t be set in stone.
As I mentioned a couple of months ago, I was raised in a secular household. That is to say, we were not particularly religious. We did celebrate most holidays though – Passover, Easter, Rosh Hashana, Christmas, and Hanukkah – just without any religious references. As an adult I learned about Secular Judaism, people who identify themselves as Jewish without necessarily practicing the religion, so that’s what I call myself now – a Secular Jew. I think culture, tradition, and honoring our ancestors are important concepts to instil in children so it’s important to me that Husband and I continue to practice all of the holidays we were raised with. But it’s also important that we practice them honestly. We are not a religious family so religion is not part of our holidays. Lots of people celebrate Christmas without religion but, you may be wondering, how does one celebrate the *miracle* of lights without religion?
Hanukkah without Religion
Well it’s really not all that complicated. We talk about the history. Whether or not the oil actually lasted for eight nights may be in dispute but there’s no disputing the fact that the temple was destroyed and the Jewish people went through a great deal in Egypt. So we talk about what happened oh so long ago and how people had to struggle and persevere. We spend time with out loved ones and talk about how easy life is now compared to what people went through long ago. And we eat chocolate.
We also read a lot of books. Since Christmas is still the prevalent holiday in winter, I think it’s important that we show our daughter that celebrating Hanukkmas is just as normal as celebrating only one or the other. So in addition to the Christmas books and the Hanukkah books, we read books about celebrating both holidays as well as some books about all the winter holidays around the world.
Books About Celebrating Both Holidays
Books About Holidays Around the World
If you’re looking for some gifts to help your little ones recognize the concepts of Hanukkah (since Christmas is most of what you see in the media), we recommend the following:
Our Favorite Hanukkah Supplies for Babies and Toddlers
So there you have it, that’s how we celebrate the holidays in our house.