Croton-on-Hudson, New York, U.S.A. – Growing up, I was raised to celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas as my dad is Jewish and my mom is Catholic.
Through these celebrations, I learned more and more about the concepts surrounding each holiday and instead of embracing the religious aspect wholeheartedly, my family chose to focus on traditions within both religions.
Each year when Hanukkah approaches, my immediate family gathers around all eight nights, lights the candles, says the blessings, and exchanges gifts. Through all of this, we are not looking at it as a way to immerse ourselves in the religion, but instead as a way of connecting ourselves with our ancestral roots.
Usually during one of the eight nights we will spend the evening with my grandparents on my dad’s side. We make latkes (potato pancakes), and eat desserts like rugelach (pastries), jelly donuts, and other commonly Jewish sweet treats.
To me, Hanukkah is about spending time with family and by doing so, embracing my culture.
My Christmas celebrations with my mom’s side of the family tend to be a bit more religion-oriented, but as an interfaith person, I once again see the holiday as an opportunity to embrace tradition and spend time with my grandparents, aunts, uncles, and younger cousins.
One of my favorite traditions is on Christmas Eve every year before dinner, my grandmother gives each member of my family a piece of Oplatek (thin wafer). We all walk around the kitchen and tear off a piece of someone else’s to eat, give them a hug, and wish them luck in the new year.
This tradition originated in Poland and has been a Christmas tradition in my family for as long as I can remember.
On Christmas morning, we exchange gifts and eat a breakfast of mainly sweets and desserts from the previous night.
Through my experiences with both holidays, I find the traditions and familial aspects are the most important.
Isabel Slippen is a Junior Reporter with Youth Journalism International.