By Nadine Bubeck
Growing up I always wanted a Christmas tree, and like most Jewish kids, I had immense Christmas envy. Sure, my parents went big for Hanukkah, but still, I put out cookies and milk hoping Santa wouldn’t forget me… and go figure, he never did.
I tell my kids they’re the lucky ones—they get to celebrate both holidays as my husband and I come from different backgrounds. While things can be a tad confusing, we’re flooding our children with tradition and instilling in them values varying religions have in common: being a good person, compassion, integrity, and faith.
To us, the holiday season is about a twinkling Christmas tree and lighting the menorah. It’s about listening to jolly jams, watching holiday movies, visiting Santa, and spinning the dreidel. It’s about opening presents—maybe too many—considering we celebrate eight crazy nights and the joy of Christmas morning. It’s about discussing the miraculous meaning of Hanukkah and attending church on Christmas. And it’s about believing—simply believing in the magic of the season.
If you’re anything like us, juggling holidays and striving to find meaning, remember you’re not alone. As parents, we aim to pave “the right path” for our children, but I’ve come to realize there’s beauty in our winding journey, and that is what makes it special, interesting, and sacred.
Here are some of our annual traditions to ring in the holidays.
Sure, we’re stocked with Christmas books, but one of my favorites is a good read that’s ideal for interfaith families with young children. My son’s former kindergarten teacher introduced us to the book “Daddy Christmas and Hanukkah Mama,” by Selina Alko, and it’s a colorfully illustrated, beautiful story showcasing a mix of two traditions. The storyline makes for an excellent road map to help navigate the holidays.
Do something good
Every year we bring goodies to our hospital’s NICU—whether little gifts for the newborn babies or cookies for the nurses working overtime. Pick a place special to your family and drop off some treats or have your kids choose a few toys they don’t play with anymore to donate to a children’s shelter. Teaching your kids to give back is the true spirit of the season.
Arrange a neighborhood gift exchange
A neighborhood gift exchange is a simple way to celebrate with friends without going overboard. With a $20 maximum, arrange for the kids in your neighborhood to buy presents for one another and then pick a December evening for the exchange (even in someone’s driveway). It’s a celebratory way to instill in kids there’s a lot of fun in giving as well as receiving.
Snag Insta-worthy PJ pics
If you’re looking for twinning pajamas, check out our family’s fave: LazyOne. The high-quality sets have something for everyone: dad, mom, kids, baby, and even pets. Choose from cliché Christmas plaid, Menorah-decorated onesies, or wintery designs infused with moose, bears, fa-la-la llamas, elves, candy canes, and more. Visit lazyone.com to see the collections.
For Hanukkah, make edible dreidels; they’re simple. To make, stick a pretzel into a big marshmallow, and on the opposite end of the marshmallow, glue a Hershey Kiss using frosting. See if it spins, then taste its goodness!
For Christmas, create pinecone trees. To make, find a pinecone and paint it green using acrylic paint. Once dry, add snow with white acrylic paint, coating the tips of the pinecone. Add ornaments by small dotting red, blue and yellow scattered around the tree. Finally, get a small wooden star from any local craft store, paint it yellow, and paste it to the top using a hot glue gun. Both crafts are so adorable for festive home décor!
From our family to yours, merry everything. May Santa be good to you, and may you win the jackpot at dreidel.
Nadine Bubeck is a former news anchor turned all things mama. She is a TV parenting/lifestyle/travel contributor, author, influencer, and blessed boy mom times three. Learn more at nadinebubeck.com. Her eldest, Nicholas, is CEO of creationsbynicholas.com.