Cautiously I turn the pages of the calendar until I reach December, searching for Hanukkah. As an Italian Catholic woman married to a Jewish man, the month of December revolves around Christmas and Hanukkah. This year, the calendar offered an extra jolt: Hanukkah begins on Christmas Eve.
I don’t like mixing traditions; each holiday deserves its own limelight. When my husband Mike and I were younger we stepped in every land mine. One year, I frantically sent my husband out to buy Hanukkah gifts for our daughters. He returned with his purchases and I stood there staring. When I found my voice I said, “let me get this straight, you bought our daughters Christmas stockings for Hanukkah? Don’t tell Aunt Rita.”
Another year we traveled to Brooklyn to celebrate Christmas Eve with my family. Christmas Eve dinner is dominated by fish and pasta. At one point, my 7-year-old daughter announced, “the only fish I like is lox.” My siblings and I held our collective breath, but it didn’t seem to register with my parents. That is when I realized my Italian parents had no idea what lox were. If it isn’t breaded and deep fried, it won’t find a place at mom’s table.
Fast forward to 2016, our children are grown and we are blessed with grandchildren. Our daughters have their own traditions.
This year. on Dec. 24, it will be just the two of us and it will be all about Mike. Our granddaughters will spend Christmas Eve tracking Santa’s progress while hoping that Santa and Amazon will come through with the goods. Mike will light the candle for the first night and I will give him a gift that he will pretend to like and need.
Christmas morning, Mike and I exchange gifts. Christmas is filled with presents, pictures, cookies and laughter.
On the 26th, our grandchildren will light the candles. Nothing gives this proud grandfather more joy than this scene. The fun begins with dreidels, story books and presents.
It has always served us well to keep our religious beliefs private, but we look forward to sharing the traditions with our friends and family. Now we will begin the New Year with its hope and promise for the future.