Cautiously I turn the pages of the calendar until I reach December. Then I scrolled down searching for Hanukkah. As an Italian Catholic woman married to a Jewish man, the entire month of December revolves around Christmas and Hanukkah. This year, the calendar offered an extra jolt: Hanukkah begins on Christmas Eve.
I don’t like mixing traditions; each holiday deserves its own limelight. Of course, when my husband Mike and I were younger we stepped in every land mine. One year, while juggling a full-time job, school, two young children and December, I realized Hanukkah was beginning that very night. Frantically, I sent my husband out to buy Hanukkah gifts for our daughters. He returned with his purchases and I stood there staring. When I found my voice I said, “let me get this straight, Mike, you bought our daughters Christmas stockings for Hanukkah? Don’t tell Aunt Rita.”
Another year we traveled to Brooklyn to celebrate Christmas Eve with my family. Christmas Eve dinner is dominated by fish and pasta. At one point in the feast, my 7-year-old daughter announced, “the only fish I like is lox.” My siblings and I held our collective breath, but it didn’t seem to register with my parents. That is when I realized my Italian parents had no idea what lox were. If it isn’t breaded and deep fried, it won’t find a place at mom’s table.
Fast forward to 2016, our children are grown and we are blessed with grandchildren. Our daughters have their own traditions. How will I juggle the holidays this year?
On Dec. 24, it will be just the two of us and it will be all about Mike. He deserves the attention. This year, our granddaughters will spend Christmas Eve tracking Santa’s progress with the help of NORAD; while hoping that Santa and Amazon will come through with the goods. Mike will light the candle for the first night and I will give him a gift that he will pretend to like and need. It will be evident that he misses his parents (and his mom’s cooking).
Christmas morning, Mike and I exchange gifts. He has a hobby that requires the packaging and shipping of fragile items, and so my husband wraps my gifts like they need to travel to Singapore during the rainy season. Once they are finally opened, I start the day. Christmas is filled with presents, pictures, pasta, cookies and laughter.
On the 26th, our grandchildren will light the Hanukkah candles. Nothing gives this proud grandfather more joy than this scene. The fun begins with dreidels, story books and presents.
It has always served us well to keep our religious beliefs private (too personal). However, we look forward to sharing the traditions with our friends and family; it works for us. Now we will begin the New Year with its hope and promise for the future.