“Can we make Christmas cookies?” my son asked me.
“Of course,” I responded.
“And latkes?” he asked.
“Yes!” I said.
Because that’s how I roll during the holidays: with a Christmas cookie in one hand and a latke in another.
I grew up with parents of different religious backgrounds (Christian/Jewish), and my sister and I were raised in a secular household. We celebrated the holidays in a non-religious way — getting together with family, eating meals together, exchanging gifts — and the way we saw it, we got to have all of the fun with none of the obligations (we were always welcome to participate in faith-based activities, but never needed to do so, and happily attended confirmations and bar mitzvah celebrations of friends). We used to decorate a Christmas tree and put a Star of David on top. We would nosh on Grandma’s latkes, and put out cookies for Santa (who visited us at my Jewish grandmother’s house — a tradition we never questioned as kids because her house had a fireplace, so it made perfect sense).
Our extended families never made a big deal out of my parents’ interfaith marriage. My dad’s parents used to have a big Christmas eve party every year, and they’d invite my mom’s mom to the party. She would show up and wish them a merry Christmas, they would wish her a happy Hanukkah, and everyone would proceed to eat, drink, and be merry. Sometimes my mom would go to midnight mass at church with my dad’s family (she loved the music).
And now, I like to carry on the tradition of celebrating both holidays. Maybe it’s more work to make Christmas cookies and latkes, to put up a Christmas tree and track down all the ornaments while also trying to dig a menorah out of storage and find candles for it. But for me, it’s just not the holiday season if there isn’t a little Chrismukkah (Christmas + Hannukah together) magic. “Every time we put up a Christmas tree, you always say you have a craving for latkes,” my husband has pointed out. Okay, to be honest, I usually buy the latkes rather than make them from scratch, because that really is A LOT OF WORK — grating potatoes?! Who has time for that? Trader Joe’s makes some darn good frozen latkes, and all I have to do is heat them up.
I’m far from alone in celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah during the holiday season. Although interfaith marriages weren’t all that uncommon when my parents got married, they’re even more common now, and I know plenty of families who celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah.
My friend (and sometimes creative partner) Ali Solomon, grew up Jewish (reform), and her husband grew up Catholic. They have two daughters, and the family has joined an interfaith community. When it comes to the holidays and celebrating with the kids, “we just constantly give them presents,” Ali jokes. But she says her daughters also love being able to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah – and have figured out that if Santa doesn’t get them something, they can try to add it to their Hanukkah wish list.
My son has friends (and family members) of all kinds of religious (and non-religious) backgrounds who celebrate the holidays in different ways. I’ve had carpool conversations with my son’s friends who talk about going to Hebrew school and making a list for Santa Claus all in the same conversation. And I am here for it.
My kid may be getting to an age where he doesn’t quite buy into the jolly man in the red suit (a story for another time), but he believes – like I do – in being inclusive and celebrating everything during the holiday season. Invite us to your holiday party, and we’ll be there, wearing something festive and ready to celebrate anything you want to celebrate.
I’m still waiting on a really good Chrismukkah movie, though.
Janine Annett is the author of the humor book I Am “Why Do I Need Venmo?” Years Old. Her writing has appeared in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the New Yorker, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Real Simple, Parents, and many other places. She lives in New York with her husband, son, and dog.