The Greer family of Oklahoma City will light the first candle of the menorah as Hanukkah begins at sundown Sunday. Christmas Day on Thursday will find the family opening presents underneath a Christmas tree. The Greers are one family celebrating two holidays, with a resulting host of traditions and family memories. "We’re very lucky that we can celebrate everything,” Barbie Greer, 37, said recently. The convergence of Hanukkah and Christmas has sometimes been called the "December Dilemma.” Some years, it is not as much of an issue because the eight-day festival of Hanukkah, a moving holiday based on the lunar calendar, is much earlier than Christmas. Hanukkah commemorates the victory of a band of Jews, the Maccabees, against Greek-Syrian occupiers in 165 B.C. and the rededication of the Jewish Temple. Christmas is celebrated by many Christians on Dec. 25, marking the birth of Christ. When Christmas occurs during Hanukkah, some interfaith families may find it difficult to deal with both holidays. The Greers said they simply see the overlap as a time for dual celebrations. The absence of holiday troubles is a result of much discussion before the couple ever got married. Barbie Greer said she is Jewish and her husband, Bill, was raised as a Christian. She said when they married, they agreed to raise their children in the Jewish faith. The Greers are like many interfaith couples who participated in the fifth annual December Holidays Survey conducted by InterfaithFamily.com. Those respondents who were raising their children Jewish said they planned to celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas, but only 45 percent said they would celebrate Christmas at home. Most said they would celebrate Hanukkah at home and with relatives, but celebrate Christmas only at the homes of relatives. Barbie Greer, who is a member of Temple B’nai Israel, said she and her family celebrate both holidays by focusing on family togetherness and not necessarily religious meanings. She said she and her husband and their children, Jake, 6, and Maddie, 3, will likely light the menorah at home but also at her mother’s home during Hanukkah. In addition, she said they intend to eat a meal of brisket and latkes at her mother’s home, as they do every year. Latkes are potatoe pancakes traditionally eaten during Hanukkah. Meanwhile, Greer said the family traditionally spends Christmas Eve at the home of Bill Greer’s mother, where they will order pizza. She said the family gathers again for Christmas Day lunch with Greer’s mother. Greer said the children get Hanukkah and Christmas gifts. And the Jewish and Christian in-laws often participate in the holiday traditions and gatherings of the other faith. "My mother goes to Christmas lunch and Bill’s mother has come to the temple for some of our events. Both extended families celebrate both,” she said. "Family is really important.” Greer said she thinks that elementary and middle school children in interfaith families probably experience a real December dilemma. At that age, she said, it may be difficult for Jewish children who are surrounded by fellow students who celebrate Christmas, but know little about Hanukkah. She said by high school, the students are at an age where they can share and better explain their faith traditions and experiences with others.
Did you know?→The overlapping of Hanukkah and Christmas only happens every few years. →The last time they converged was 2005, when Hanukkah started at sundown Christmas Day. →In 2006, Hanukkah began Dec. 15 and the eight-day holiday was over by the time Christmas Day rolled around. →Last year, Hanukkah started Dec. 4. →The two December holidays won’t overlap again anytime soon: Hanukkah will begin Dec. 11 in 2009 and Dec. 1 in 2010. SOURCE: Apples4theteacher.com