Double the Joy
The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term melting pot as, “a place where a variety of peoples, cultures, or individuals assimilate into a cohesive whole.” This term perfectly describes both my city and my household. My hometown of New Orleans has long been known for its unique blend of people, lifestyles, languages, and perspectives. Religion flavors much of the rich history of this city and continues to participate in the diversity of this amazing place.
Both of my parents are Jewish, as well as native New Orleanians. My mother, the daughter of two Holocaust survivors who fled here during World War II, came from what is considered more of a traditional Jewish home. In her house, only the Jewish Holidays were celebrated and recognized. My father, however, a third-generation Louisianian, came from a family who also embraced the spirit of Christmas and celebrated yearly with their community and in their home.
I was 11 months old on my first Christmas. As new parents, my mom and dad originally agreed that they would only celebrate the Jewish Holidays with their children, in keeping with my mother’s more traditional Jewish upbringing. However, on Christmas Eve, my father couldn’t bear it, and he rushed out for last-minute Christmas preparations. Thus, my father’s family tradition of celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah every year carried on for my siblings and me.
Fast forward to my adult life, I am still living in this beautiful and eclectic city. My husband and I have an inter-faith marriage and continue to celebrate both the Jewish and Christian holidays with our three children. We love sharing our broad traditions with our kids, as well as each other’s families.
Our Hanukkah celebration involves lighting the candles on the menorah each night after sundown. We sing classic Hanukkah songs, play dreidel (a spinning top type game that involves “gambling” with change) and open small gifts. In recent years, I have tried to keep Hanukkah gift-giving simple, as Christmas seems to have taken over as our main gift-giving holiday. We give each of our children $10 each night for the eight nights of Hanukkah. After the holiday is over, they take their haul to Le Jouet and get to pick out their own gifts. Lazy or genius?!
Christmas season begins when our elf, Kirby Maholmes, makes his appearance a few weeks before the 25th. We decorate the exterior of the house and trim the tree inside. We go to parties, teddy bear teas, and to see the beautiful lights in the park. Santa delivers gifts on Christmas Eve and we are awoken by the glee of our children at the crack of dawn to open gifts on Christmas morning. We typically enjoy a belated celebration with my husband’s out-of-town family the week following Christmas.
My oldest child attends a Catholic school in Metairie, and my middle child is enrolled at a Jewish nursery school. My kitchen table is on full display during the holidays with a myriad of treasures ranging from Advent Wreaths, to paper menorahs, to a coloring page of the Nativity scene, to chocolate gelt … you get the idea! People ask if my children are confused about the holidays, but I believe that they are just very informed.
The biggest blessings of the holidays are getting to celebrate with family and friends … and by celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas in New Orleans, we get to double that joy.
Beryl Katz Dueitt
Mom to John (8), Ruthie (3), and Grady (6 months), Beryl can be found running around to each corner of this city attempting to juggle life. She was born and raised in New Orleans and resides here with her husband, Cory, the children, and their two yellow labs. In her free time, she enjoys riding her horse, lunching with friends, and cooking.
Beryl, Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to you, Cory, John, Ruthie and Grady. I really enjoyed this post and look forward to reading more of your post on this blog. Love you all. JCT