Hanukkah is just a couple of weeks away—early this year, which is fine with me, since I’ve already done almost all my holiday shopping due to supply chain woes.

In my family growing up, we lit the menorah every night—one of my dad’s that he decorated in Hebrew school. Now we do the exact same thing, with the exact same wax-dolloped menorah, in my own home. The only difference is, my kids get way more exciting presents (as in Nintendo Switch games instead of “The Baby-Sitters Club” paperbacks).

This year will be bittersweet and probably pretty damn hard, actually. My mom died in June, and my dad now lives alone. We’d normally go to my parents’ house to light the menorah, but this year, we’ve invited my dad over to our house instead. I can’t bear the thought of him home alone. I’m trying to make an extremely big deal out of both holidays, from loading up on tickets to outdoor light displays to ordering Hanukkah food from Mamaleh’s to springing for an Apple Watch as Andy’s big present (in fairness, it’s used, and off eBay). But this year needs to be extra special, without my mom.

I asked interfaith couples how their childhood celebrations differ from their modern-day rituals. Here’s what they said.

As a kid in Longmeadow, we did eight festive nights of Hanukkah; we lit the menorah, played dreidel, ate latkes, blasted Hanukkah music and, of course, opened presents every night. My mom always wrote clues on our presents, and we loved guessing what was in the boxes.

“Now that I’m older and have my own two kids, and my partner is not Jewish, Hanukkah has become a bit more diluted. On night one or two, we light the menorah, say the blessings, open a few presents and do a little dreidel, but it’s not the most hyped-up thing in the world like it was when I was young. On some nights, it’s rushed. We might forget a night or two. I certainly don’t write clues on their presents.

“This isn’t so much a product of my interfaith relationship but because I am a busy, disorganized and overworked mother who does her best and refuses to apologize for her shortcomings, which includes not getting my s*** together for the holidays. As far as Christmas goes, we drive to my partner’s parents’ house in Maine, with all his siblings and relatives, and it is glorious. It’s like out of a dream or a holiday movie. I finally understand the pure magic of Christmas. My kids engage in all of their traditions: decorating the tree, waking up early for Santa, wearing adorable Christmas-y pajama sets. They are overjoyed by all of it. I’m surprisingly fine with this.

“However, I do continuously whisper into their ears, ‘Just remember, you’re Jewish!’ My in-laws are incredibly inclusive and always have the menorah out and fry up latkes that are better than anyone’s on my side.”
Alyssa

“As a kid, Hanukkah was usually just my immediate family. Now, my family, including two kids and my non-Jewish wife, join my parents at their place on one of the nights, and my mom makes latkes when we come over. Perfecting latkes that aren’t too time-consuming will be a lifelong endeavor! Pre-COVID, we had a few Hanukkah parties for neighborhood families, many interfaith.

“Now, we’ll often buy the kids a bunch of presents for the holidays. Then, before wrapping, we think about which gifts should be assigned to which holiday. Because Christmas is such a big event everywhere, and because my in-laws do so many big gifts for the kids on Christmas Day, we tend to save the big gifts from us for Hanukkah. My parents also give the kids a ‘gift certificate’ each year good for a donation to a charity of their choice, because it’s a nice way to remember that gift-giving isn’t all about receiving.”
—Elliot

“I try to make a point to create space for Hanukkah to be the dominant event during this time so it’s not competing with Christmas. This year, it’ll be easy, because Hanukkah starts so early. When it starts closer to Christmas, it’s harder.

“We light the menorah and say the blessings, do a celebratory meal with latkes on the first and final nights and read Hanukkah picture books with the kids. As a non-Jew who loves Christmas in a secular sense, I would typically go all out with Christmas stuff with my two kids as of Dec. 1: break out the picture books, have them start in with crafts, get their PJs out, start watching Christmas shows, etc. Now I realize how suffocating that is for those who don’t celebrate. Now, Hanukkah is the main focus of what we do during that time, even if we get a tree right after Thanksgiving.”
—Heidi

“Growing up, we lit the menorah each night, followed by each kid opening up one gift per night. My siblings and I also had to devote one night to donating to charity instead of getting a gift. My mom usually made latkes and brisket as a traditional meal. We now also celebrate Christmas to honor my husband’s upbringing, and our daughter gets the best of both worlds.”
Jennifer

“I’m Jewish and my husband is Catholic. We have four kids and celebrate both holidays and have a tree. Raising an interfaith family, we have many of the same traditions as when I was growing up: lighting a menorah, eating latkes and opening presents. One difference: On the last night of Hanukkah, we gift Christmas pajamas to wear on Christmas Eve. The kids love it!”
—Jackie

“Growing up, we’d light the candles each night, usually celebrate one night with extended family and open one gift each night, or, if we requested, just one big gift. As we got older, it was our choice. Now, in our interfaith home, we have a Jewish star that sits at the top of our tree. The Mensch on a Bench and The Elf on the Shelf keep my three kids on their toes. I’m passionate about being an interfaith family! My Catholic husband makes homemade latkes.”
Alison

“Growing up, we’d celebrate Hanukkah with mom and get small gifts every nighta calendar, nail polish, a sweet treatand then on Christmas Eve, we went to my dad’s sister’s house for presents with his side of the family. Christmas Day, we’d go to my dad’s brother’s house for brunch and presents. When we got older, we stayed home on Christmas Day, did presents and ordered Chinese takeout. My dad is Catholic, my mom is Jewish and my brother-in-law was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness!”
—Leah

I started Fusioned Family, an Etsy shop for interfaith Hanukkah and Christmas decorations, because when the holiday season rolled around, I felt like my family and I would celebrate Christmas in one room with the tree and then Hanukkah in the other room with all of our menorahs. They were separate, but our family is onea house united, if you will. So I developed ornaments and tree-toppers so we could celebrate in a way that was representative of our family. We now add a new ornament from my shop every year.”
—Andy