Interfaith households blend religious and cultural traditions of Christmas and Hanukkah
Trees decorated with menorah and dreidel ornaments a common feature in Chrismukkah homes
'"Chrismukkah represents our relationship at its best," says Christian woman living with Jewish boyfriend
Rebecca and Roni Kopelman have been celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah since they got together in 2006, building the foundations of an interfaith household.
Some of the Ohio couple’s holiday traditions are blended, like their Christmas tree decked out in menorah ornaments and blue and white lights; others adhere more closely to the standard formula. During Hanukkah, her husband prepares a latke feast, they light the menorah each night and exchange small gifts. For Christmas, they hang stockings, bake cookies, go to church on Christmas Eve and open presents the next morning.
“To some people, this might seem challenging and strange, but to us, it’s a wonderful way of celebrating and respecting each other’s history and tradition without taking anything away from our own,” Kopelman said in a CNN iReport.
“I love sharing my husband’s memories and passed-down family traditions at Hanukkah, and he happily decorates – and eats! – Christmas cookies and shares memories with me as we hang ornaments on the tree.”
Some families keep strict religious and family traditions around holidays, but more families are blending religious and cultural traditions.
Outside of the holidays, the Kopelmans don’t consider themselves extremely religious “in the textbook way,” she said. She was raised Methodist and he was raised Jewish and both went through the traditional rites of their religion. But when they went away to college, they became less fastidious in their religion pursuits, and remain so today.
“Our family history and backgrounds are important to us both, so our religions have become more like a culture or tradition we like to honor,” she said. “We were both raised to be good people who value love and acceptance, and this is the shared part of our religions that we tend to focus on at home.”
Families across the country have long celebrated more than one holiday in December, but only recently did those traditions gain the name “Chrismukkah.” Jill Erickson and her partner have embraced the label ever since it was first coined on the television show, “The OC,” in the mid-2000s. To Erickson, who is Episcopalian, and her Jewish partner, Chrismukkah represents their efforts to incorporate their respective traditions into the holiday season.
“We try to have a good sense of humor about the whole blending thing,” said Erickson, 56.
Erickson shared images on CNN iReport that show mixed holiday decorations in their Falmouth, Massachusetts, home, from a menorah and advent calendar to stockings bearing the phrase “shalom” and plates decorated with dreidels on a red plaid table cloth.
“I grew up loving Christmas. My partner does his best to go along with all my enthusiasms. He has grown to love Swedish meatballs, which I make for Christmas. The one thing he won’t do is help decorate the tree, but he has become very adept at putting Christmas lights outside!”
But mixed families don’t necessarily need to embrace the label to create the foundations of their interfaith households.
Cassie Pham, of Los Angeles, California, and her boyfriend of two years moved in together recently, making this the first year they merge holiday traditions. She’s a Vietnamese-American who celebrates Christmas and he’s Jewish. Like the Kopelmans, they have a Christmas tree with dreidel ornaments and a menorah, which they light each night. Pham learned to cook matzo ball soup.
“For me, Chrismukkah represents our relationship at its best,” Pham said in a CNN iReport. “We blend our two cultures and lives together not just during this time, but through the year and different events in our families. I like that we are both open mind and are respectful of each others’ cultures.”
This year is especially meaningful for the Kopelmans as they celebrate their first holiday season with their son, who was born December 28, 2011.
“With this as his first ‘Chrismukkah season’ – not a blended holiday, but rather just the season when both are celebrated at our house – we couldn’t be more excited to introduce him to the fun, the food, and the spirit of each holiday.”