by Candice Engelhart
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!
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.