Appreciating Traditions: When Less is More

Tonight, my boyfriend and I will be making the long drive to Tennessee to celebrate the once-in-a-lifetime holiday mash-up of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah. I am so grateful that we get to spend these holidays with my family, especially since I haven't been home in over a year.

However, I remember a time when having a family that didn't celebrate Christmas felt frustrating. It was hard to explain why we didn't celebrate Christmas to my friends. Once it was established that I celebrated Hanukkah, I had to clarify that we don't actually get eight presents and it ranks low on the list of Jewish holidays.

"That is so uncool," everyone would tell me, "And the other Jewish kids have trees."

The trees weren't in their imagination. A recent Pew study of Jewish Americans reports that there are more interreligious families than ever, at least among Jewish people. In fact, 58 percent of Jews who tied the knot between 2000-2013 married a non-Jewish spouse. (For my generation's parents, it was 41 percent.) This has lead to an increase in multi-holiday celebrations and a decrease in menorah-only homes.

Because I felt left out, I spent a good portion of my childhood winters begging for a Christmas experience. I even began my journalism career with an article for my high school newspaper about my sadness over the tree-less state of my house.

But now that I'm nearly 1,000 miles away from home in the hustle and bustle of Manhattan, I am looking forward to going home to, well, not much of anything. We won't be crafting or Christmas cookie baking or stringing up any lights. I don't even have to worry about giving huge gifts or wearing festive attire. There is nothing wrong with having holiday spirit, but I am thankful that we will have the only dark house on our block in December. We'll light candles, say some prayers, and hopefully feast on some latkes. And that's all I need.

Jen M. L. wrote an amazing article over at the Huffington Post about embracing the title of "World's Okayest Mom" and not starting new traditions because of media influence and general mom competition. I think her attitude is perfect. Parents: I hope you stick to your holiday traditions, however simple or small they may be. You don't have to be the next Martha Stewart to make this season special. No matter what you do, your kids will be appreciative, even if it takes a few years for them to realize it.

Image: Boy with father and grandfather spinning dreidel via Shutterstock.

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