Holiday Memory: Keeping the Faith & Sharing Traditions

by Candice Engelhart

A young Candice (R) celebrates Hanukkah with her older sister, Stacy (L) and dad, Adam (C).
A young Candice (R) celebrates Hanukkah with her older sister, Stacy (L) and dad, Adam (C).

I grew up celebrating Hanukkah until I was eleven years old – that’s when my stepmom moved in.  That year, Christmas and Hanukkah fell very close together and I didn’t want a Christmas tree up until Hanukkah was over. My request was overruled and the rest of my family decided to celebrate the holidays in unison.

Of course, as a preteen, it was my way or the highway, so while they decorated, I scoured the house for all Jewish related items. I grabbed the menorah, candles, the Passover prayer book, and even the mezuzah – a parchment with religious texts that Is attached to the doorpost of a Jewish home – right off the door! I went so far as to just take anything I could find that was blue or silver (the official Hanukkah colors) and I brought everything up to my room.

I used my collected items to decorate my bedroom and created my own Hanukkah space. When I was done, I put a sign on my bedroom door that read “Candice’s Jewish Room.” At the time, my family rented rooms to Cornell college students, and I invited all our renters to enjoy the Festival of Lights in my room. There was a lot of amusement surrounding the events in my room and I had many visitors. My stepmother even stopped by for one of the lighting ceremonies!

Candice and daughter, Emmalie, having some Christmas fun!

By the time Christmas rolled around, I was done having my Hanukkah fun and was able to enjoy the rest of the holiday season with my family.  It was then that I realized that celebrating both traditions brought our families closer together. As an adult, I celebrate both holidays and my daughter has the benefit of understanding the traditions of both faiths.

Candice Engelhart is Branch Manager of TERRA’s Kirkland office.

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