Baby's first Chrismukkah

How can a Jewish girl and a Christmas-crazy boy make it through the holiday season? By blending the best of their own traditions for a customized celebration.

Baby's first Chrismukkah
Photography by Emma McIntyre
Growing up, I was never interested in Christmas. As a Jewish kid living in a Jewish neighbourhood in Toronto, I didn't know anyone who celebrated North America's biggest holiday. Christmas was tangential—an elaborate, sparkly backdrop for the winter season. Even as I ventured outside my insular Jewish community and made friends who adored Christmas, the holiday remained in my peripheral vision. That is, until I started dating Dawson.

I fell hard for the sweet, generous redhead from Kingston, Ont. I loved his charming, easygoing nature, which came complete with an enduring love of childhood Christmas traditions. When Dawson asked me to join his family for our first holiday season together, I didn't think twice. I'd seen A Christmas Story, and I knew all the words to "Jingle Bell Rock." I was prepared to do the Christmas thing. Or so I thought.

Dawson's family welcomed me warmly. I awoke on my first Christmas morning
to my own overstuffed stocking and a scavenger hunt for our presents. I loved the coziness of sitting around the tree, tearing open packages and sharing memories. But after the gifts and the Bailey's-spiked coffee, I began to feel homesick for my own family's alternative Dec. 25 tradition of going to the movies and joining other Jewish families for Chinese food. And I discovered, much to Dawson's chagrin, that I disliked turkey dinner. Beyond that, I was concerned that if Dawson and I got more serious, the bright twinkly lights and loud carols would overshadow my Jewish holiday customs.

When Dawson and I moved in together, he brought along his collection of much-loved tree ornaments. He asked that we buy a small tree for our first holiday in our new apartment, and I hesitated. Christmas decorations in our home seemed like the first step toward losing my Jewish identity. He  understood, and when he brought home a little artificial tree, he set it up on a table beside my great-grandmother's menorah.

Thus began our own celebration of Chrismukkah. We adopted the pop-culture term because it perfectly describes the hybrid Christmas/Hanukkah traditions we've created together. I taught Dawson to play dreidel; he took me to midnight mass. I make Hanukkah jelly doughnuts called sufganiyot; he bakes his mother's shortbread cookies. Together, we've found a balance that makes holiday time extra special.

Last holiday season, we introduced our newborn daughter, Maytal, to her first Chrismukkah celebration. With both of our families gathered at our house, we trimmed the tree, lit the menorah and gobbled up a feast that included my mother's latkes. I even let Dawson have his traditional turkey with all the trimmings.

This season, our daughter will be 14 months old when Santa comes to town. I still worry that, for her, Christmas will outsparkle the comparatively sedate Hanukkah. But I can't wait to introduce her to Chrismukkah traditions she'll be able to call her own. 

Check out the story of how one family finally got to bring home their miracle baby.

This story was originally part of "The Best of Both Worlds" in the December 2015 issue. Subscribe to Canadian Living today and never miss an issue!

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