December 6, 2010

St. Nicholas Day

This Christian festival for children is held in many different European countries and, in some regions, is more important than Christmas. It is a day when children wake up to presents—often left in their shoes or boots, which they put out with carrots for St. Nicholas's horse the night before. This holiday is especially important in Germany and the Netherlands, but it is also celebrated in Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Aruba, Monaco, and other places.

Night 6 of Hanukah

This “Festival of Lights” is an eight-day Jewish celebration characterized by gift-giving, lighting candles on a 9-branched menorah, and other customs. A children's game is played with a top called a dreidel, potato pancakes called latkes are fried and eaten, and special songs are sung.

Many families celebrate holidays from more than one religious tradition. For example, today my family celebrated an early Christmas with my daughter's family, who can't be around on the 25th and we celebrated Hanukah. We played dreidel, lit the candles while singing the traditional prayer, made and ate latkes—and we enjoyed Christmas lights and a decorated tree and ate roast beef and veggies-sauteed-with-bacon. I'm glad that our diverse family calls for twice the traditions and pretty much twice the fun!

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