Jerry Seinfeld’s TV episode covering his best friend George’s crazy family celebration of Festivus often reminds me of my own family’s holiday celebrations. Over the years, we’ve invented a host of traditions to celebrate various holidays, including a Passover present exchange.
Let me explain how that tradition began. I live in a religiously-blended household. My husband, Harry, is Presbyterian and I’m Jewish. This time of year for blended households like ours can be oddly entertaining. You might see a tree with blue and silver ornaments, and a Star of David on top (although, as we’ve broken so many ornaments over the years, you’re more likely to see other colors mixed in there). One benefit of celebrating Christmas is that it falls on the SAME day every year, making it easy for Harry to remember. It’s always December 25th. Trying to get Harry to remember (or think about) when the first day of Hanukkah is, well, that’s quite a challenge.
But the first Hanukkah after Harry and I were married was one of my favorites. Harry asked me to explain the history of the holiday, the traditions, the food, etc. Of course, I also explained that you give a gift for each of the eight nights. Harry is not a shopper, so I was not surprised to see his eyebrows immediately cave in. The enthusiasm for celebrating this new holiday seemed to be gone. And suddenly, just like that, he was smiling again. Apparently, he had an idea. And on the first night of Hanukkah I got my first clue as I unwrapped a putter. On the second night I knew exactly where this was going as I unwrapped a driver. Harry went out and bought me a set of golf clubs – and gave me one club each night. He was quite proud of himself for being so ingenious. Of course, I loved my new golf clubs, but I wasn’t going to let him get away with his lack of creativity. The next Jewish holiday that came along was Passover, which is also celebrated for eight nights. Once again he asked for all the details, and once again I filled him in. When he asked about gift giving, I couldn’t resist. “Yes, we give a gift on each of the eight nights!” For those who are not as familiar with Passover – I made that part up. But, Harry obliged. And so began Passover presents. Now the point goes to … Sheila!
I really do love this time of year. So many places you go are decorated so beautifully, and those fresh pine and cinnamon smells carry me back to childhood memories.
When I was a little girl, Hanukkah meant homemade golden brown latkes. Nice and crispy on the outside, and soft on the inside. That smell in the house when they were cooking was like smelling a loving hug coming your way. And our latkes were always topped off with my grandmother’s homemade applesauce. Simply put, there is nothing better.
My cousins celebrated Christmas and Hanukkah in their blended household, so we would go to their house on Christmas. I thought they had the best of all worlds celebrating both holidays. And while my parents gave us a present each night of Hanukkah, they would also treat us with a gift or two on Christmas morning, including my all-time most memorable gift. My grandmother (yep – the same one who gave me my love for baking) made my “Ginny doll” a beautiful, satin lined, fur coat she had handmade from scraps from the department store where she worked. I was the luckiest girl in the world, and my Ginny doll was THE most well-dressed in the neighborhood. By the way, my grandmother did not pass along her love of sewing. I can’t even thread a needle without breaking into a cold sweat.
We’ll be hosting extended family in our home this year for Christmas. Maybe I’ll be inspired enough to make some latkes and homemade applesauce. Or maybe I’ll just make reservations!
If you have some invented holiday traditions you’d like to share, I’d love to hear them. Just post on my Facebook page.
Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah (belated) and Happy Festivus! From our Brownie Brittle family to yours!