When Christmas and Hanukkah Collide

Christmas is always December 25th, but Hanukkah moves around on the calendar.  The holiday keeps you on your toes because it could be at the end of November (like the year when it coincided with Thanksgiving) or any time in December.

This year the first night of Hanukkah is also Christmas Eve.  For a blended family like mine, it causes a slight challenge.

Background:  My husband was brought up in the Jewish faith, but he does not practice.  My in-laws (and when they were alive my grandparents-in-law...if such a word exists) are Jewish.  My family is Christian.  (Although my father and his side of the family are a different denomination than my mother and her side.  When it came time to be confirmed, I chose to my mother's Presbyterian tradition, while my brother chose to become Episcopalian like my father.  Of course with that said he was eventually married in the Presbyterian church and his funeral was overseen by a Congregational minister, who was a very good friend to him.)  I am active in my church and have been since the 1990s.  I brought my son to church less for religious training and more for socialization (as a only child he is not very social) with people of different ages, races, etc.  I wanted him to have a place where he could feel safe in expressing himself and a place where he knew he was cared for.  I also wanted him to learn to care for others and to consider others.  To that end, he (and sometimes I along with him) has helped prepare food for the hungry, sang in the children's choir and participated in other activities.

My husband says he is an atheist.  He does not attend a synagogue and he will come to church to hear me and my son sing.  (He has also come when I have filled in as pulpit supply.)  Despite this, I feel it is important to honor his family's religious traditions.  The eight nights of Hanukkah are something that we try to observe as a family by lighting the candles and saying prayers.  (Although many times it has just been my son and my husband as I am not able to make it home before sundown.)

This year with the holidays falling right on top of each other, I've got a little bit of a conundrum.  There are two services at my church on Christmas Eve; a family service at 4 PM and a traditional service at 9.  My son will sing at the 4 PM service and also participate in the telling of the story by being a king.  (Putting that Halloween costume of two years ago to good use.  This will probably be the last year it will fit him, so it will be donated to the church so someone else can use it in the years to come.)  He needs to be at church for rehearsal at 3:20.  The 4 PM service will last for about an hour, so by the time we get home, the sun will have been down for a while.

We could light the candles beforehand.  (And I confess we have an electric menorah.)  But I don't want to be rushed.  So I am hoping that we light them when we get home, before we have dinner and before we head BACK to church at 8:20, when I will sing and participate in the service.  Early or late, it will be my husband's decision and I will agree with whatever he says.

I might feel like we're "gypping" Hanukkah this year, but since my son will be spending the majority of Hanukkah with my in laws, I know they will get to spend special time together and he will learn experience new traditions with them.

So when Hanukkah and Christmas collide, my family will get the special gift of celebrating them both. We will experience traditions new and old and celebrate the miracles that both holidays bring.

No matter what you celebrate (or even if you don't), I hope you take this time before 2016 ends to enjoy with family and friends!


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