December 21, 2005
This year, Tim and Gigi Durand are going to celebrate Christmas in the morning with their kids, Sonny and Eliana, then light the first candle of the Hanukkah menorah in the evening, before Christmas dinner. The Durands are a Basalt family making the most of an unusual occurrence: Christmas and the first day of Hanukkah, the Jewish tradition of lighting candles on eight consecutive days, fall on the same day this year.”We like the traditions,” Tim said. “My father-in-law was very religious in the Jewish faith, my wife isn’t religious at all, so it’s just fun.”Mendel Mintz, the executive director and rabbi of the Jewish center Chabad on the corner of Fourth and Main in Aspen, said there are some positive effects to the coincidence. “It gives more time for the family to spend together,” he said. “Sometimes Hanukkah can be in early December, but this gives people the opportunity to celebrate without going to school or work the next day, in many cases.”Indeed, the Durands didn’t seem to feel that it made that much of a difference.
“We’re going to my dad’s house for Christmas Eve, then we’re doing a Christmas day dinner after we light the candles,” said Tim. “My son, who is 7, likes to light the candles each night.”While Christmas honors the birth of Jesus, Hanukkah commemorates how Jews recaptured the Jerusalem Temple from a Syrian despot around 165 B.C., and how the one-day supply of oil they found afterward miraculously lasted for eight days.”Essentially what it means for the modern Jew is the victory of light over darkness, to thank God for everything we have,” Mintz said.It is not unusual for Christmas and Hanukkah to occur within days of each other or to overlap. But Edmund Case, president of Interfaithfamily.com, told The Associated Press that he researched the dates and found the start of Hanukkah has fallen on Christmas Day only four times in the last 100 years.The number of American families with one Jewish and one Christian parent has grown steadily in recent decades; the National Jewish Population Survey found that the intermarriage rate was up about 47 percent from 1996-2001. Maureen and Arthur Rothman of Carbondale celebrate both holidays in the same way as the Durands, with Christmas in the morning and Hanukkah in the evening. Maureen was raised Catholic and Arthur raised Jewish.
This year, though, the Rothmans have a larger problem than having the two holidays on the same date. Maureen has to work at the hotel they own, the Thunder River Lodge in Carbondale, tonight.”We haven’t figured out how we’re going to do that, but we still have 24 hours to figure it out,” Maureen said in a Christmas Eve interview. Arthur’s sister, who also celebrates both holidays, is staying at the lodge: “Her husband is Catholic, and their children have been raised Jewish,” Arthur said. “Their kids are older, but they’ve always had a little Christmas tree and always celebrated Hanukkah.” Maureen said it’s possible they might have Christmas and light the Menorah at the lodge – if they can figure out the logistics of it all. It’s not such a big deal for them, either. They’ve raised their kids, Ian and Joel, to understand both holidays and so today they have Christmas and the first day of Hanukkah. “We just do both,” Maureen said, though she did add that she would prefer if they were separate. “Because then it’s two distinct things, as opposed to kind of muddling them, but it’s not a huge deal.”
Arthur said basically the same thing, “If nothing else because of the logistical issues, trying to light the candles and trying to go somewhere for a holiday meal. Logistically, I think it’s simpler to keep separate.”Families that celebrate both holidays tend to oppose “Chrismukkah,” a blend of celebrations the interfaith family at the center of the Fox drama “The O.C.” popularized. Maureen said her sons are grasping all the essential elements.”They understand that Christmas is a celebration of Jesus and the birth of Jesus,” she said. “And they know the story behind Hanukkah. I don’t know how much they understand Christian versus Jewish.”Arthur has gone to school with Joel and Ian the past two years to talk to the students about Hanukkah.”We did really something at the school where we brought in a menorah and lit it,” Arthur said. “The teacher likes doing this multicultural kind of thing.”Associated Press writer Rachel Zoll contributed to this article.