We celebrate both. I grew up with Christmas, my husband grew up with Hanukkah. We celebrate Christmas with my family and Hanukkah with my husband's. In our home, we stick to Hanukkah, except in years like this one, when everyone will gather at our house from around the country and we'll decorate across the board. My children aren't the slightest bit confused. Why should they be? In this difficult world, we welcome any and all celebrations.
I learned this lesson years ago from our dear friends Millie and Milt. They always say there are plenty of tears and trouble in life, so you should celebrate whenever you can. Party till you drop, that's their philosophy. Perhaps that's why they are still kicking up their heels when most people their age have planted their posteriors.
A few years ago, my daughter fell in love with the made up word "Chrismahanukwanzakah". She loves saying it and uses it often to describe any December-related revelry. Maybe it's all the syllables that she loves. Or maybe it's the "K" sounds, as Neil Simon's character Willy explains in The Sunshine Boys:
"Words with 'k' in them are funny … Cupcake is funny. Tomato is not funny. Cookie is funny. Cucumber is funny. Car keys. Cleveland … Cleveland is funny. Maryland is not funny."
But I digress.
Chrismahanukwanzakah is a commercial holiday — literally. It was invented by Virgin Mobile as part of a holiday ad campaign. But, aren't most holidays pretty commercial these days? My girl thinks it's the best holiday ever, and not just because it's a great word. The whole notion of a crazy, mixed up holiday seems to fit our crazy, mixed up family. And it seems we're not alone. According to ABC News, in 2004 Chrismahanukwanzakah beat out Seinfeld's 1997 "Festivus for the Rest of Us." One made up holiday invented by an ad agency trumps another made up holiday invented by a guy writing a show about nothing. Do I hear a carol in there somewhere?
Seinfeld's "Festivus for the Rest of Us"
And speaking of carols, let's face it, Christmas music is just so much more festive than … well, any other holiday music. And there's so much of it. Oh, sure, we have Hanukkah, Oh Hanukkah and I Have a Little Dreidel — maybe a few others, but nothing to compare with the multitudes of Christmas carols. It's interesting to note that many of the most famous Christmas carols have been written by Jews, who cashed in on a little commercial Christmas success for themselves:
That cross-over tradition lives on in my friend Billy Kaplan. "Perhaps your family is like mine," he says, "celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas. So, this year you will be lighting five candles on the menorah, then sitting down to a nice Christmas Eve dinner." Always in a dilemma over which kind of Holiday music to play, Billy and his daughter Hannah (Billy and the Kidders) solved the problem by writing and recording "Dradle 'Round the Tree", their CD with music for either (or both) holidays; check it out on their Website.
So, no matter which winter holidays you celebrate, sing something merry this year and rejoice with gusto — and a happy, merry Chrismahanukwanzakah to you. Click here to leave your holiday wishes.