Christmas and Chanukah and Family Expectations, Oy Vey!


1This post originally ran in December, 2019.


I am one half of an interfaith couple. Around this time of year, I like to say that my husband is Chanukah and I am Christmas, and my children get to celebrate it all. Consequently, as their parents, we have a lot on our plates. We need presents for Christmas and for the eight crazy nights of Chanukah. We are Santa and Chanukah Harry. We have family expectations and traditions from both sides. I feel a responsibility to at least attempt to bring equal weight to both Chanukah and the festive juggernaut that is Christmas.


Luckily for us, my children are too little to understand these holidays and all of the accompanying trimmings. I’m taking advantage of this short window of time before big holiday expectations arrive to lay the foundation for what those expectations will be – for my children, myself and my husband, and both of our extended families. Realistically, do I expect to be crying into my eggnog in a few years? Yes, but humor me for now.


Interfaith families are not alone in balancing these concerns during the holidays. Conflicting events, different traditions, and strongly-held opinions plague most families as moms struggle to unite their vision of the holiday season with their partners’. Whatever holiday you and your family celebrate, I’m sure you can relate to the stress to do it all, please everyone, and embrace every new tradition (Elf on the Shelf, I’m looking at you).


a Star of David ornament on a Christmas tree


My approach to this incredibly hectic time of year is to pare our holiday celebrations down to the essential elements. I, much like Buddy the Elf, love every single element of Christmas. It takes every ounce of my maturity and emotional strength to acknowledge that it is not realistic, or respectful to my Chanukah husband, to fully recreate my Christmas-crazed childhood. Instead, I pick just a few of everything: Christmas movies, Christmas books, afternoons spent blasting Christmas jams, and gimmicky traditions. I do my best to honor each night of Chanukah by taking a (very) brief break from Christmas hoopla.


As for taking on new traditions and pleasing everyone? Much like Queen Elsa, I let it go. For a reality check, I remind myself that my parents did not “do it all” back in the simpler days of the 1990s. Our holiday season focused on traditions meaningful to our family, and my childhood Christmases were nothing short of magical.


My children’s holidays, and your children’s holidays, will be equally magical, even if you already forgot to move your dadgum Shelf Elf three days into December. They will be magical because they will be unique to your family. Even your most ornery relative will likely forget, with time, who arrived late or had to leave early because of their toddler’s nap schedules or your spouse’s family obligations. They’ll just remember being together.



Whether you’re balancing multiple holidays like my family or just the ever-growing expectations of one holiday, we’re all in this together. Our goal is to do our best and do so with joy. Whatever we accomplish will create wonderful memories for our children and families. I’m also sure we’ll always fall short of someone’s expectations – maybe ours or maybe someone else’s – but years from now, we won’t remember the disappointments. Let’s make an effort to enjoy today what we’ll treasure in the future: the wonder and joy in our children’s eyes and time spent with loved ones.