By Brandy Black
My wife is Jewish and more than any religion I identify with Santa and Christmas. I was raised with more of an Eastern sense of spirituality. I started meditating when I was eight years old (although I’m admittedly not so consistent with it now). My parents never introduced me to Church or Temple; that came later, when my friends invited me to get to know their worlds better. So while we celebrated Christmas, it was a pretty mellow event.
When Susan and I had kids, we discussed the importance of sharing our spiritual and/or religious and cultural upbringings with them so that they could better understand their family history and range of beliefs. The High Holy Days and traditions of Passover and Hanukkah hold fond memories for my wife, and though she doesn’t necessarily subscribe wholesale to Judaism, she wants our kids to experience those same sweet traditions that she had growing up.
In an effort to celebrate the best of both worlds, we celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah in our family: Chrismukkah! We sing Christmas carols as well as Hanukkah songs, and have even changed the lyrics to the song “The 12 Days of Christmas” to “The Eight Days of Hanukkah,” with silly lyrics that we wrote together as a family. We go to a Christmas Mass on occasion and strangely, I cry every time. I get such a huge emotional surge when I’m surrounded by so many strangers, all from different walks of life, gathered together in the spirit of kindness, unity and love. We want our children to understand there is a greater purpose to life; that love and kindness should lead you through your days, and that whatever name people may give it—there is a great force, a spirit bigger than us, guiding us along the way.
Without belonging formally to church or a temple, we make an effort to create our own traditions and find ways to celebrate our beliefs. We love Skirball Cultural Center so much year round, but come the holiday season, it becomes even more of an important family destination for us. It is a place where we can gather to celebrate Jewish traditions in a unique way, surrounded by a community of like-minded people. We love watching the kids let loose—dancing and singing, expressing themselves through art and exploring the history of the Jewish people. Skirball openly embraces LGBTQ families like ours and their programming is inclusive to all backgrounds.
This year, Skirball’s Hanukkah Festival: LA/LA is inspired by The Getty’s Pacific Standard Time: LA/LA initiative, exploring the themes of Hanukkah through the traditions of LA’s diverse Latin American communities. Activities include musical performances by Latin Jewish bands, and the opportunity to learn about Mexican chocolate by decorating chocolate gelt. We would love to see your family there! Come celebrate the season with us by honoring the cultural diversity of our neighbors, learn about traditions you might not be familiar with, and maybe go a bit deeper into the ones you hold dear. The festival is on Sunday, December 10th 11:00AM-4:00PM.