Holiday time brings a festive atmosphere in many households, but in mine it also brings a war of decorations.
Once the Christmas tree is hauled through the front door, dreidel decorations start popping up in the kitchen.
Just as Christmas and Hanukkah both start on the 25th (though on different calendars), they are equally enjoyable and important in our family.
I can remember playing dreidel while eating gelt sitting under the Christmas tree.
Recently, we’ve had two trees for Christmas.
The one downstairs is 6 feet tall with red and white lights and topped with a traditional angel. The large crimson ornaments are lanterns and animals in the shape of the Chinese signs of the zodiac (possibly an influence of Asian culture on our family).
In contrast to the elegant tree downstairs, the one upstairs is smaller with blue and white lights. It’s kitschy with a color overload, as we hang all our weird and mismatched ornaments on this tree.
The face of a wooden Green Man stares at me from the lower branches, and sparkling onions and mushrooms dapple the branches.
On top sits an eerie-looking clown doll that sways with the movements of the tree.
The house looks festive with the dreidel collection and Christmas trees, if not a little disconcerting with the clown atop the upstairs tree.
On the counter in the kitchen, the soft candlelight from the menorah shines for eight days, so we can enjoy the light while we eat.
We are never short of chocolate during the holidays, as my mother and I make peppermint bark, and my father and I love to buy See’s gelt.
Unfortunately, we don’t usually have latkes as they aren’t considered healthy by a certain member of the family.
In lower school (and now), friends would ask if I received gifts for eight consecutive nights and more for Christmas, to which I would smile and nod. They were jealous because they thought that I received double the amount of presents but in truth, the number is the same because it’s divided between each side of the family.
Having parents who both practice their respective religions made growing up that much more of a learning experience.
Celebrating both holidays continues to be entertaining and enlightening. But now that I’m older and know the holiday stories, I just appreciate receiving presents on both holidays from both sides of the family.
—By Nicole Wolkov