Being featured today is Hannah Moskowitz, author of Break and the upcoming release Invincible Summer, to share a little bit about her holidays, celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah.
My dad had a rule about Christmas decorations: they must be kept inside. So, growing up, I had no twinkly rainbow lights weaved around the bushes in our front yard, and no electronic reindeer grazing down by the mailbox. We had discreet, non-denominational candles in the windows. For eight nights, we kept our blinds up so you could see our burning menorah from the street.
But around that menorah, our house was a Christmas explosion. My mother put stockings up by the fireplace, wreaths on the doors of every closet, and figurines of the three wise men on the counter tops. We played Christmas music for the whole month, and we got a Christmas ornament on the eighth night of Hanukkah every year. It was always hard to tell if Christmas and Hanukkah were cooperating at our house, or if they were fighting. It was a delicate balance, and not one that we were always been able to keep. But, much more often than not, it was the most comfortable thing in the world to play dreidel with a candy cane in my mouth.
When I was a kid, being a halfie felt like this magical thing--I mean, hello, twice the presents. It got harder as I got older, and I began to see more splits in my family. My father and I identify ourselves as Jewish. My mother and sister do not. And I was raised without Hebrew school and without a Bat Mitzvah. And that, coupled with the fact that my mother is a sweet little Protestant from North Carolina, was enough to get me quite a few raised eyebrows when I tried to get involved with the Jewish community at college. I was a shiksa in a way no clunky Ashkenazi last name could remedy.
I am still trying to figure this out. But, in the meantime, I eat marshmallow peeps the day after Passover. I sing prayers on Yom Kippur in a language I do not speak. And somehow, during the winter holidays, it all seems a little easier. Neither of my parents is religious, so, despite the blessings and the carols, the wither holidays are more about us than they are about spirituality. They are about Christmas cookies and latkes, s'mores in the fireplace, and putting up those damn three wise men figurines. They are about the things we do together, and the main thing we do is Chrismakkuh.
I have my own house now. I lit my menorah on the kitchen table. My Charlie Brown Christmas tree hung over it like an awning. Nothing caught on fire. Not even the little red ball on the tree's plastic branch. Not even me.