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So You Think You Can December Like Us?

December 16, 2009

When our relationship was serious enough to begin spending the holidays together, my husband and I watched in glee as our "same-faith" friends battled over splitting the holidays with their respective families. No, as an interfaith family, we were never to share in their December dilemma. He's Jewish, I'm Christian … what's the problem?

Patridge in a Pear Tree Postage StampNow, I long for that naïve glee once again. Let's see, where to begin? It started off slowly, a blowout easy to avoid. Both of our parents are divorced, but since it has been nearly 25 years since my own parents' divorce, I had grown accustomed to splitting the holidays. Easy-schmeasy. My negotiating skills on the December holidays have been perfected over the past quarter-century. I had this one in the bag. I think it went something like this:

"We will leave at noon on Dec. 23 to drive six hours to spend Christmas Eve with my mother, drive another three hours north to spend Christmas night with my father, and your mother will drive the two-and-a-half hours to our house for Hanukkah. Your father, who lives 1,200 miles away, will get every other Hanukkah or another vacation of his choosing."

Over the next couple of years, this system seemed to work out well enough, that is until Hanukkah fell on Christmas. Oh, joy. I think that year went something like this:

Me: "No, your mother just has to deal with it. We spend every Christmas Day with my father. There are eight nights of Hanukkah, and Hanukkah isn't a real holiday."

Him: "What? Hanukkah is a real holiday. She wants us to stay with her this one time; what's the big deal? She's all by herself."

Me: "Fine, you go stay with her and I will disappoint my father again and tell him you aren't coming this Christmas. No, in fact, you call him and tell him."

Him: "Fine, and you call my mom and tell her you aren't coming to see her."

Well, after three hours of this, we spent Christmas Day with my dad and drove that night to see his mother on Hanukkah. Both of us happy and exhausted, we then drove home.

Fast-forward to today. It's exactly eight weeks until Hanukkah/Christmas, and my anxiety is already at blood-pressure raising levels. This year, his mom and younger brother have since moved to Israel, and his older brother moved across the country. So he and his two brothers are flying from all over the world to spend Hanukkah with their father. Then, a week later, his mother and two brothers will be staying for two weeks in our two-bedroom apartment. We will then leave our house on Christmas Eve to drive six hours to my mother's house, then on Christmas Day drive three hours to my father's house. Then loop around and drive back to our house, which at this point in the story is still being occupied by his family.

Whew … I'm not even getting into the fact that one of his brothers is Orthodox. That is a whole other article to be titled, "How I Almost Went Crazy Trying to Make My House Kosher."

It has become our little December tradition to drive across the South like madmen and come up with new ways to entertain ourselves in the car. But in the end, I wouldn't spend the holidays any other way. Our family means the world to us, and isn't that what the holidays are really about? Surrounding yourself with the love of your family? For me, that moment is worth driving a million miles.

We have yet to add children into the equation. We're saving those years for a really special chapter in the Morgenstern family's "Why December Gives Me Hives" book.

Hanukkah (known by many spellings) is an eight-day Jewish holiday commemorating the rededication of the Second Temple in Jerusalem at the time of the Maccabean Revolt of the 2nd Century BCE. It is marked by the lighting of a menorah and the eating of fried foods. Hebrew for "fit" (as in, "fit for consumption"), the Jewish dietary laws.

Cassie Havel Morgenstern is a writer from Atlanta.

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