The joy of Chrismukkah

A multicultural holiday season

Chrismukkah. The intersection of Christmas and Hanukkah. Few people get more than
one aspect of the holiday season. I am one of them.

As a Jew, my family celebrates Hanukkah every year. The celebration of lights!
Commemorating the oil that burned for eight whole days and nights in the Second Temple.

We celebrate with the menorah, adding a new candle every night until nine brightly shining
candles stand tall. We make latkes and smother them with applesauce and sour cream,
accompanied by mom’s melt-in-your-mouth brisket. A few nights end with the exchange of
presents, the others we give back to the community.

A week or so later, my mom and I fly up to the snow-covered streets of Winnipeg to
decorate the Christmas tree centred in my Gramma’s front window. We wrap presents for
family, bake batch after batch of cookies and on Christmas Eve, we all gather with paper
crowns to eat a turkey dinner.

Waking up on Christmas morning feels magical, even now that I’m in my 20s. However,
there is one tradition I cannot disregard.

For context, growing up, all my best friends were Jewish. When we each asked our
parents why we couldn’t have a Christmas tree, we got the same answer: “you are Jewish
and don’t get a Christmas tree.” The occasionally lucky got a Hanukkah bush.

This leads me to my childhood best friend, Ariel. Ariel and I were mischievous, and
celebrated anything to the highest extent possible. So when we wanted Christmas, we did it
our way.

That first Sarah-Ariel Christmas, we got a mini tree from Target. We decorated it with
ornaments and put our stockings underneath. We blasted classic Christmas music while
baking treats for Santa and snuggled up in matching pjs, hot chocolate burning our tongues
while Christmas movies played. And right before bed, we set out a plate for Santa and his

I’m sure Ariel knows this now, but after she had gone to sleep, I stuffed our stockings with
candy canes and little knick-knacks from the Target dollar sections. I ate a cookie and
placed the note my mom had written as Santa beside the plate. I moved presents under the
tree, then crawled back to bed to wake up hours later and watch Ariel experience a
Christmas morning. Stockings dumped and presents unwrapped, we finally got Christmas.

Now that it’s been a good six years since this tradition ended, I realize how much I wanted
to share the joy of Christmas with my best friends. There was something about Christmas
that I felt every year that was unfair my other Jewish friends didn’t get.

The one night a year where you know most of the world is doing the same thing. The calm
and happiness that comes with being around people you care for, when you can celebrate
the humans in your life. Christmas is just that time of the year.

Although, my absolute favourite years are when Hanukkah spans through Christmas. We
call this Chrismukkah. During those years, we bring our menorah up and sit it next to the lit-
up tree. I get to share each night of the holiday with our non-Jewish family. I feel proud to be
able to share that part of my culture.

That leads me to my grand idea. I think Christmas should be secularized even more than it
is. And out of all the places in the world, I think North America is the place to do that.
The holiday is already an ever-increasing consumers’ dreamland. We all crave Starbucks
red holiday cups, pictures with Santa and snazzy holiday deals, so why not move toward an
even more secular, or at least a less religious holiday?

Every person should get to decorate a tree, sing Christmas music, watch Hallmark
movies, bake for a fictitious, never-aging man and wake up with that feeling on Christmas
morning without the feeling they are participating in religion.

However, taking religion completely out of a day that celebrates the main guy’s birth
seems nearly impossible, especially when a majority of people in North America believe in

At the same time as wanting the whole world to celebrate Christmas, I feel very lucky that I
get the community and celebration of Hanukkah. Growing up in a multicultural family was not
about getting loads of presents, but about the joys of each holiday and the time I get to
spend with my family.

Really, the holidays should be about spending time with the ones you love and giving back, no
matter which you participate in. Whatever it is you celebrate, I wish you all a happy holiday season
and wonderful new year.