Calendar Schmalendar

Spin the dreidels, light the menorahs, it is Hannukah time.  When we announced that Saturday was the first night of Hannukah, the kids dropped their electronic gadgets, stopped texting their friends, and cleaned the table off.  Everyone was so excited to start the celebration.

What, your calendar says that Hannukah is still a couple of weeks off?  Well, because Hannukah coincides with our trip to California to celebrate Christmas with my family we are doing it early.  We have always played loose with the dates for Hannukah.  When our kids were really small we made the decision to celebrate each holiday on its own.  We felt that by making each event stand on alone, it would eliminate the competition between the two.

The agreement Bob and I reached before we got married was that we would celebrate Christmas with my family but not in our house.  We have violated this one year when we didn’t have the time or resources to go to my family’s home.  We had a very low key celebration at our house.  I am not sure what we will do when my mother is no longer with us, and I don’t like to think about that.

At first I was disappointed about this.  I fought it, and tried to put up a tree and decorations.  Now, I love that we don’t have to worry about putting up lights and decorating a tree.  It is one less thing I have to do.  When we go to my mom’s the kids can do all the Christmas stuff.  I don’t have to try and squeeze it into our schedule.  When we are there we can do it without all the other stressors of our lives.  The kids get the full experience and I have less work, win/win!

But, back to Hannukah… it was great to watch my kids get over-joyed by lighting the menorah.  To actually want to sit down and play dreidel with us, we sure don’t have this response when we suggest family game night.  They immediately started in on determining when we would have latkes and who we would invite.  Because of the schedule, the idea of donuts for dinner was met with squeals of excitement.

My youngest who is 6, asked about presents.  We told her, that because we were doing it early that the only gifts they would get during our Hannukah would be the ones from us.  They would still get gifts from everyone else, but they would just come later.  We reminded them that they will just get the usual gifts from us.  We give money, clothing and an experience.  That is it.  Last year we swapped out a material gift for an experience.  The experiences were a trip to a baseball game, a pony ride and a professional soccer game.  It was something each kid got to do with their father, alone.  It was very well received.

So, while for most people Hannukah has not started, for us it is almost over.  That is ok, because we will leave the “coldest place on earth” and head home to California for two weeks of Christmas.  It works for us, what works for  you?

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6 thoughts on “Calendar Schmalendar

  1. My family has never moved a holiday that much, but this year we are celebrating the weekend before Hanukkah actually starts because that’s when the extended family can get together.  And for us, holidays are more about who than when.  (On the other side of the family, we’re doing Xmas on the 27th so that side can all get together.)  I prefer it when the holidays aren’t piled on top of each other so we can really enjoy and savor each one, instead of racing from one celebration to another.

  2. Unless you actually plan to move your Christmas celebration two weeks early the next time they coincide, you should think about the fact that you still subtly imply that Hanukkah gets pushed out by Christmas.

    Your story reminded me of some Orthodox friends who were visiting non-Orthodox relatives who wanted to celebrate Hanukkah a few days early for scheduling reasons. I overheard one of them sternly warning their daughter not to say the blessings if candles were lit at the party because it would be improper since it was not at the right time.

    We have often visited my parents (also in California) for Christmas because the kids always get a couple weeks vacation so it is convenient. My parents are Christian (although my dad does not attend church) and they always decorate a tree, although they celebrate Christmas in a rather secular way. However, the first time the holidays overlapped, we tried to light candles with my daughter (who was a baby) at my parents’ home, and we found that they were not comfortable with that. So we made the decision to be elsewhere in the future whenever the holidays coincided.

    My Jewish husband does not have any close living relatives except for his sister since his parents died when he was a child and the last of his grandparents, a non-Jewish step-grandfather, died when my children were young. So we do not have Jewish grandparents to visit for those years, but we have done road trips to visit friends and relatives on the east coast (many of them Jewish) or a ski trip to Colorado. I should add that I did not convert to Judaism until my kids were in their teens, but I participated actively in Jewish life since before I married and considered myself to be kind of “pre-conversion” for all the years before formally converting. We converted our children and brought them up solely as Jews with only Jewish rituals in the house.

    I admit to being a bit of a wimp in never directly telling my parents why we sometimes did not visit in the winter. I have no idea if they ever noticed from the calendar that it was during the years when Hanukkah overlapped with Christmas. If so, they never brought it up.

  3. I have shared what works for our family.  It is one option.  It may not work for you, and that is what makes all of this great we get to do what we think is best.  Please remember that as a non-Jewish partner fully contributing to raising my kids as Jews, I have given up a lot.  I fight hard to ensure that my kids identify as Jews.  If my family can respect my traditions by going to my family’s Christmas celebration, moving Hannukah so as to not light the menorah in front of the Christmas tree, well, that seems a small price to pay.

  4. Debbie, on Shabbos, a friend mentioned that her partner’s family moved Christmas this year, to accommodate everyone. SLP shared her family’s way of balancing out the holidays, but there are certainly other variations out there too.

    Susanna, you make a valid point and one that needs to be thanked and celebrated: you, and other parents who are not Jewish but are raising Jewish children, do a lot for your family and our community. That your family has found a way to respect both holidays separately is great.

  5. Sorry if I sounded overly critical. If everyone is completely happy with rescheduling Hanukkah, then it worked for you.

    But one thing I would worry about  if holidays are simply re-scheduled (for other people who might think of following this idea, not necessarily for the Susana’s family) is that the person most willing to accommodate will have to do that the most often. This is a problem when one spouse is more religiously active than the other. I didn”t actually mean to suggest that Christmas ought to be rescheduled, but used that as a question to probe whether the “compromise” would always occur whenever the holidays coincided. But it sounds like this situation is seen as a part of a bigger picture in which it compensates for other things “given up.”

  6. Debbie, thanks for the clarification!  :)  

    I would think that in an interfaith marriage the partner who does not identify as part of the “chosen” religion is the one making the bulk of the compromises.  The partner who identify’s with the “chosen” religion gets to pass on their traditions, while the other partner does not.  In every situation, the question has to be asked, what is the right thing for our family and can I/we live with that? 

    As for my personal feelings about that… well, that would make a good blog post wouldn’t it.. 

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