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The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

The Student News Site of University of California - San Diego

The UCSD Guardian

A very merry Chrismukkah

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Photo by Leah Schiffer/ UCSD Guardian

It’s officially that time of the year again: sunny San Diego has just the slightest chill in the air, Mariah Carey is dusting off her whistle notes, Santa’s elves are toiling away in festive sweatshops, and the Hanukkah bushes are glowing brightly. The holiday season is upon us, and American traditions are in full swing. 

Raised as the racially ambiguous offspring of two very different parents from very different backgrounds, my claim to fame around the elementary school lunch tables became that “I celebrate Christmas AND Hanukkah!” Small ears perked, faces lit up, and my overjoyed peers proclaimed with complete and utter envy: 

“So you get double the presents?!”

“Yep!” 

Not quite, but I wasn’t about to kill their holiday dreams … or risk dwindling my street cred.

When it comes to commingling cultures, there’s no rulebook. It’s uncharted territory for most families. Once my Korean-Italian-American Catholic mom married my Hungarian-Jewish dad, all sense of normalcy went by the wayside. My brother and I carried on my dad’s legacy by becoming bar and bat mitzvah, but the yearly Christmas spirit remained strong. The resulting holiday was a spirited amalgamation once popularized by Seth Cohen in the 2000s hit series “The O.C.”: Chrismukkah. 

Most of us know that Santa Claus, gift-giving, and the theme of joy to the world have long been established as December staples. So when did Hanukkah, a relatively minor holiday in the Jewish canon, rise to fame as the esteemed Christmas equivalent? That’s where our beloved American consumerism comes in, along with a hint of sympathy for Jewish kids teased by holiday cheer. I may not get double the presents, but somewhere along the way, the ritual of giving one present for each of the eight nights of Hanukkah became the norm. Before we knew it, Target’s shelves were stocked with kitschy menorah towels and latke spatulas. Blue and white found their permanent place beside the red and green palette.

Just as America fused the two holidays in the spirit of cultural inclusivity, my parents welcomed the Chrismukkah combo into our home and our hearts. If you were ever wondering how mixed religious families celebrate the holidays, here’s a special inside look into my family’s traditions over the years. 

Santa Meets Hanukkah Harry

I was a firm believer in Santa Claus far beyond a socially acceptable age — a combination of my own gullibility and my parents’ crafty scheming. But even I knew that Santa could not be working alone. How could he deliver all those presents without the help of his partner in crime, Hanukkah Harry? Each Christmas Eve, I made it my mission to cultivate the perfect hospitable environment for the team’s arrival: a plate of freshly baked Nestle Toll House cookies, a chilled glass of 2% milk, a pile of carrots for their famished reindeer, and a neat stack of gold chocolate coins for good ol’ Harry. The next morning was pure magic. With dirt and leaves trailing to half-eaten carrots, elf mischief scattered about, and a gold button mysteriously left behind, all signs pointed to the obvious. This continued on for years. 

But it’s not all about the big fellas. Here are some more current and grounded ways that we’ve learned to embrace the shared holiday season. 

The Miracle of Oil

Our oil flows freely not only to commemorate the Feast of Lights — frying up tasty latkes and sufganiyot (a special breed of Hanukkah jelly donuts) -– but also to pay homage to the Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes with fried shrimp and calamari. Despite covering only two of the seven fish, our Chrismukkah dinner menu serves as a scrumptious symbol of cultural unity, cooked to golden brown perfection. 

Elves on Shelves and Mensches on Benches

It’s widely known that household decor immerses us in the holiday spirit, and my family and I go above and beyond in decking out our home. Dreidel and menorah ornaments adorn our Christmas tree, and Rudolph shares a seat with our Mensch on a Bench (a play on the notorious Elf on the Shelf and another product of consumerism found in Target’s limited Hanukkah aisle). From the eclectic mantle collection to the blue lights strung up along the roof, our space showcases the religious symbiosis of the season in a tangible way. 

Christmas Day at the Cinema

Eating Chinese food and going to the movies is a classic Christmas Day itinerary for many American Jewish families and a time-honored tradition that my New York Jewish father — and his mother — hold very near and dear to their hearts. While our meal plans are set, we still honor this sacred practice with an after-dinner flick on the big screen. It’s tradition, after all. 

So as we approach the Fall Quarter finish line and enter the holiday break, let’s all take some time to reflect upon and cherish the family traditions that have shaped us into the spirited individuals we are today. Whatever you celebrate and however you celebrate, we raise a glass to your unique holiday cheer. Merry Chrismukkah to all and to all a good night.

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About the Contributor
Leah Schiffer, Senior Staff Writer
Leah is a fourth-year English Literature and Communication double major at UCSD. When she isn't writing, you can likely find her caring for her beloved hedgehog, Mr. Hobson.
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