My husband and I come from different religious traditions, and we celebrate lots of holidays. I never met a holiday I didn't like, so it's been pretty wonderful. When we married, everyone told us that we'd have a lot of problems trying to deal with our diverse heritages, but it really has worked very well for us. I feel like our family life has been richer for it.
We have other differences, too: my husband is from New York and my family comes from California. And where do we live? In the Midwest. A number of years ago I found a rubber stamp of American Gothic, Grant Wood's iconic painting of middle America, and this year I decided I could turn it into a holiday card ideally suited to our situation.
Hanukkah and Christmas sometimes overlap and sometimes don't. When the kids were little it was easier when there was some space between the two, but either way we still tried to keep each tradition inclusive of the other.
That Christmas tree ornament you see is a dreidel, which is used in a game played at Hanukkah. Each side of the spinning dreidel has a Hebrew letter, one letter for the first word of the sentence (in Hebrew) "A great miracle happened here." The story goes that the Jews used gambling with the dreidel as a cover for clandestine meetings to study Torah when they were under Syrian rule. The 'miracle' refers to the oil for the temple menorah that burned for 8 days even though there was only enough oil for 1 day. Depending on which letter lands on top when you spin the dreidel, you take a different amount of winnings from the pot -- or you have to put some in!
These quilted Hanukkah placemats are made to look like dreidels. I got these before I learned to quilt, but I'm going to make some for my children once they get settled in their own homes. (If you look carefully in the upper right corner of the photo, you'll see a Christmas package that's under our tree.)
When the kids were little, we had lots of conversations about the various holidays and the girls had to come to terms with the fact that not everyone believes the same thing and that sometimes there is no easy "right" and "wrong". That's a tough lesson, but I'm glad my kids grew up learning to understand how good people can come from many backgrounds. When my youngest daughter was 6, she ran upstairs while we were decorating the tree to make a star for the top. Look carefully at its shape and at what she wrote on it.
"G-d is with both." (Many Jews write 'God' that way.) We were so pleased by the message that now this star tops our tree every year. It reminds us that whatever holidays we celebrate, life in this world belongs equally to us all.