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Welcome to my website, home of Eight Candles and A Tree, a book for all families that celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas. With almost sixty percent of Jews and a third of all Americans marrying out of their faith, this is a much needed children’s picture book that shows how one interfaith family celebrates their holidays.

Colors of Christmas and Hanukkah

Typically, Christmas is represented by the colors red and green, and Hanukkah by blue and white, while silver and gold are the colors that celebrate the festive holiday season. Consider how your family’s home can incorporate all these colors – a fragrant evergreen wreath or tree, holly berries, a blue and white tablecloth, lights of all four colors, a shiny menorah – are just some of the ways that your home can showcase both Christmas and Hanukkah colors.  You may also want to purchase or make some Christmas or Hanukkah table decorations that you use each year at the holiday’s family meals and invite children to draw pictures that use all the colors of the season.

Making Photographic Memories

Choose a location in your home that creates a meaningful background for you. Decide whether your family is going to wear the same type of clothing, such as pajamas or dressy clothes, or not, and plan to take the photo in the same location with the family members standing or sitting in the same places every holiday.  You may also want to designate a particular wall in your home where you showcase each year’s framed photo. Watch how each family member grows and changes over the years. These photos are likely to become family treasures.

Celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah with Food

For families that celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah, Parents magazine has some suggestions for melding the holidays through food:

  • Skip the yams alongside your Christmas turkey, and serve up potato pancakes (latkes) instead. Hanukkah is the one time of year when we’re encouraged to eat foods fried in lots of oil!
  • Make star-shaped cookies with the kids, which will honor both the Jewish Star of David and the guiding star that led the wise men to Bethlehem. Decorate them with blue, silver, red, and green icing.
  • Hanukkah is also sufganiyot season—time to devour these yummy round, fried, jam-filled, powdered-sugar dusted doughnuts! Or, you may want to bake up a hybrid version this year: Eggnog doughnuts!
  • Combine many seasonal colors by adapting this recipe for Glitter Ball Cookies, adding green, red, and gold sprinkles, too.

Hide the Pickle

This idea for a fun game comes from Deborah Skolnik, who was senior editor at Parenting and is currently editorial director of NYMetroParents.

When I married my husband, I was introduced to my new favorite game, Hide the Pickle. That sounds wrong.

Let me explain: My in-laws hang a pickle ornament on their Christmas tree each year, and whoever finds it gets a lovely coin.

The thinking is that a tiny green pickle in a big green tree is tough to spot. And it is—for amateurs. But I’m Jewish: I’ve spent my entire life staring at pickles. (I’m pretty sure I had a pickle crib mobile.) For a while, I was killing it. As the others squinted and scrutinized, I’d give the tree a quick once-over and locate the camouflaged Kirby—stat. Year after year, I’d get the coin, while my brothers- and sisters-in-law would politely hide their sour (or half-sour) feelings at my winning streak. Eventually I bowed out, feeling the fight wasn’t fair.

Now that we all have kids, we’re the spectators. It’s my daughters’ turn to try to out-pickle their cousins, and they usually don’t. Our family today is an even greater mix of beliefs and backgrounds, so in a sweet way, Hide the Pickle is a tribute to our nation’s great melting pot. Just fill mine with matzo ball soup.

Family Holiday Celebrations

Just as Sophie and Tommy celebrate Christmas in different ways, so do all families. Over the next few months I will be posting ideas for family observances and celebrations. Today’s suggestion comes from the Parent Map website. Please share your family traditions too.

“One of our favorite holiday traditions is actually one that we saw being practiced in a friend’s home while we were visiting for the holidays. Each Christmas our friend’s mother writes down the big family moments that have happened throughout the year and reads them aloud after the family has finished opening their gifts. Now as adults, our friend and his siblings can go back and read these annual thoughtful journal entries and reminisce over all of the great family moments that they may not have remembered right away. And since the journal begins from the time that they were infants, they have plenty of treasured moments to recall each year!”

Two of my preferred sources for blank journals are Paper Source and, for a choice of journals from all over the world, Novica.