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From Dreidels to Angels: The story of Chrismukkah

“’That was the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.

The Menorah sat above the chimney with care, in hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.”

For those who are familiar with the much-loved book and poem “The Night Before Christmas,” something may seem out of place. Let me introduce the story of Chrismukkah. Not many have heard of this holiday, and very few celebrate it.

The FOX television program, “The O.C.,” first popularized Chrismukkah.

The main character, Seth Cohen, has a Jewish father and Protestant mother. As a way to merge the holidays, he claims to have created Chrismukkah, which he describes as eight days of presents, followed by one day of many presents.

In 2004, the holiday began to take off. The website, chrismukkah.com, sold Santa Claus-like yamakas and other Chismukkah products.

Other TV shows and magazines have caught on to the trend as the number of children born into Jewish and Christian households has increased.

According to the book, “The New American Judaism,” 50 percent of all Jewish people marry someone of another religion.

So out of the 5 million Jews in the U.S., approximately 2.5 million will marry someone of a different faith, making way for more children to be brought up in the ways of Chrismukkah.

Each year, my family celebrates a typical “The O.C.” definition of Chrismukkah.

I was raised in both religions even though I was born to a Jewish mother, making me 100 percent Jewish by Jewish Law.

I grew up in Christian schools, and the majority of my friends were Christian.

I never got along with Jewish kids because I wasn’t Jewish enough for them. Same goes for the majority of Christians. I never really knew where my place was since I couldn’t identify with either religion.

I still celebrated all the Jewish holidays, such as Hanukkah, Passover, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, but that was the extent of my Jewish side. I never had a Bat Mitzvah. I never went to Hebrew school, and I only occasionally had a Friday night Seder.

For those of you who have no knowledge of anything Jewish, this may sound like I’m speaking … well … Hebrew. I apologize.

Since I grew up in Christian schools, I also became well-versed in Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter.

I never really knew what I was supposed to celebrate, so I developed my own version of Chrismukkah long before I saw “The O.C.” or knew the title existed.

In the past, we used to have a white Christmas tree decorated with Hanukkah colors (blue and white), topped with a Jewish star. Currently, we’ve upgraded to a pink tree. Also, our presents are wrapped in Hanukkah paper.

Instead of celebrating eight days of Hanukkah, we have one party on the first night where one gift is exchanged, then the rest of the gifts are given on Christmas.

The entire family is invited to the Hanukkah party, including the non-Jewish members (which only includes significant others since my family tends to disown anyone who converts).

Everyone brings a grab-bag present as well as some kind of food dish.

Speaking of food, Jewish food is quite unnoticed by the world, but unbelievably delicious.

The most important Hanukkah dish is latkes, also known as potato pancakes. The name is self-explanatory. Many Jews eat their latkes with applesauce or sour cream.

The second most important and even-more-delicious food is matzoh ball soup . It is basically composed of chicken soup and large round dumplings made from matzoh meal. Matzoh ball soup is more of a Passover dish, but I had to mention it anyway.

We usually serve macaroni and tuna. It is against kosher law to serve milk and meat together.

Since matzoh ball soup has a chicken base, we cannot serve it in conjunction with many other foods. Tuna is, for some strange reason, considered a milk-based food. We also usually serve apple cider and Jell-O. I am unsure why.

After dinner, we gather around the Menorah and the Shamus (center candle) is used to light one candle for each night of Hanukkah. The Hanukkah blessings are sung in Hebrew.

After the blessings, the grown-ups clean off the table and the kids anxiously await the present opening.

The gift table is piled high with colorful packages of all sizes.

Everyone grabs a gift. Most of the gifts are not wanted. I once received an egg slicer. Until that point, I tried to stay away from sharp utensils at all costs. So much for that idea.

My Christmas is more traditional and most are already familiar with how to celebrate.

Although I have never truly fit into either religion, I feel like Chrismukkah brings me closer to my roots and allows me to celebrate something. Even though I may not fit the dictionary definition of Christian or Jewish, I still feel the holiday accepts me for who I am, regardless of my belief system.

Regardless of your religion, the holidays are meant for celebrating, whether Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa or Chrismukkwanzaa.

By being raised in both religions, I really have the best of both worlds.

I get amazing Jewish food while listening to Christmas music and decorating a tree. I wouldn’t trade this for anything.

Everyone should celebrate a night of Chrismukkah (or at least try the food).

egolden@unews.com

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