Ali celebrates Hanukkah, and Jenni celebrates Christmas. Take a look at how we share, combine, and create new traditions during our first holiday season together.
The holidays are my favorite time of year. From Halloween through Christmas, I thrive. My family has many traditions that we've been doing for as long as I can remember, and I love that sense of consistency from year to year.
Ali and I spent our first holiday season apart - save for a spur of the moment NYE trip to Seattle - so we exchanged gifts when we saw each other that November and went about our usual traditions with our own families.
But as we approached the holidays this year, and I gushed to her about all the Christmas things she was going to do with me and my family, she faltered a little bit. What about her holiday traditions? Obviously I'm always game for another holiday. Gift giving is one of my love languages, and to be able to nail the gifting game eight nights in a row was a challenge I was ready for. But I needed to take a step back and realize how important this was to Ali - especially since she wouldn't be with her family this year.
It took us a few conversations to really figure out how to make room for both holidays - when would we start listening to Christmas music? When would the tree go up? Christmas is pushed on us earlier and earlier every year, and it's easy to overshadow Hanukkah when Christmas starts the second Thanksgiving dinner is over.
We actually ended up putting up our Hanukkah and Christmas decorations simultaneously, the day BEFORE Thanksgiving. A box of beautiful wrapped packages had come from Ali's family for both Hanukkah and Christmas, and it didn't seem right to leave them on the table when we could very easily put up our tiny tree and holiday-neutral stockings. We created the Holiday Corner, complete with garlands, Hanukkah lights, the Christmas tree, and plenty of presents. When we decorated the tree, we listened to my favorite Christmas songs, including, to Ali's amusement, "Trim Up the Tree" from the Grinch Who Stole Christmas.
As Hanukkah began, we'd open our gifts in the Holiday Corner and light the menorah on the dining room table. I was able to light the candles - sometimes almost in the wrong order before Ali stopped me - while she said the Blessings. One of my presents was even a picture book for kids about Jewish holidays! I really don't know anything besides vaguely the story of Hanukkah, and what I gleaned about Passover from The Prince of Egypt, so I'm very glad I have my new book.
We were sent a Hanukkah House kit, and so we decorated it to bring into the preschool where Ali works. It was the perfect balance of Hanukkah and Christmas, and also a hot mess as we struggled to present a Kids Baking Championship worthy gingerbread house.
My traditions are so important to me, so I know how it must feel for her as well. I want to incorporate traditions she loves into my life, like playing dreidel and having challah on Fridays. I even had the chance to come into the preschool and join Ali's class for their Hanukkah party! You can definitely say I'm a big fan of Hanukkah now. It's a really special time to spend with loved ones and show them how much you care.
Now, to Christmas. Where we live, there's a thing called Christmas in the Park, with big animatronic displays, Christmas trees decorated by schools, Girl Scout troops, and other groups, a giant tree in the middle, and even snoap - California's soapy take on snow. My very favorite thing is this train with open boxcars, each containing a little scene. I couldn't even tell you what scenes the other boxcars have in them, because I spend all my time with the mice. This one boxcar has three little singing mice being conducted by another mouse, with - you guessed it - another mouse accompanying them on the piano. They don't move much, and an ear or a tail disappears every year, but for some reason these little mice make me misty-eyed! I was so happy to share them with Ali this year.
We also went to see houses dripping with Christmas lights and a park you drive through to see big moving light displays. Here are some of our favorites!
On Christmas, we're doing a combo of our traditions - gift unwrapping for me, then Chinese food for Ali, and seeing a movie, which is a Christmas day tradition for both of us! This year our movie was Mary Poppins, which we ended up seeing a couple of days after Christmas... but close enough!
What are some of your favorite holiday traditions? Let us know in the comments!
Happy holidays to you and yours, and happy new year!