It’s not like you can flip a coin.
The first night of Hanukkah falls on the same night as Christmas Eve this year, and for blended families, that means finding creative ways to give both holidays the attention they deserve.
“If we can’t do it in our home, then it’s impossible for the world to do it,” says Ruth Klein of Valley Stream, who is Jewish and married to a man raised in an Italian Catholic family. One solution the family has come up with: adding crabcake latkes to their traditional Christmas Eve Feast of the Seven Fishes.
Here is more about what the Kleins are doing — and how two other Long Island families will be sharing their faiths on the night of Dec. 24:
Glenn Allen of Huntington is the single father of daughter Grace, 11. They’re now part of a blended household — Allen’s girlfriend is Jewish. When it was time to put up the tree this year and Allen realized the confluence of the holidays, he tried to think of a way to keep everybody thrilled and nobody feeling like one holiday overshadowed the other.
“The tree topper that we had was not functioning properly,” Allen says. They had an electric menorah — the kind Jewish families usually put in their windows. “I just thought, ‘How cool could that be to put the menorah on top of the tree and make that the topper?’ ”
And that’s what he did.
“I put a photo of it on Facebook and got so many compliments,” Allen says. “A couple of people I know who are in blended families themselves said, ‘I wish I would have thought of it.’ I think it’s going to be a tradition from now on. It looks great.”
Try to follow this: Douglas Klein’s paternal grandfather was Jewish, but his parents raised him Catholic. Ruth Klein, whose first language is Yiddish, and whose parents were Holocaust survivors, initially thought she’d met “a nice Jewish boy” when she heard Douglas’ last name. The two raised their children Jewish.
However, Douglas usually prepares the Feast of the Seven Fishes for the extended family on Christmas Eve.
“My dad is quite the home chef,” says the Kleins’ grown daughter, Jessica Goldstein, who lives in Melville. “My dad said to me, ‘Latkes don’t go well with linguine and clam sauce.’ ” So they had to map out a meal plan.
Jessica, Douglas and Ruth joked about using gefilte fish as one of the seven fishes, then Jessica found a recipe for crabcake latkes. “She said, ‘Dad, what do you think?’ ” Douglas says.
Douglas did a test run of the recipe. “They were out of this world. It’s a must-do. It was that good,” Ruth Klein says.
“Food, as you know, is the most common language in the world,” continues Ruth. “We have everything at our table. It’s not how I grew up, it’s not where I came from, but it’s another world today. We try to embrace it all.”
“We are kind of a blended family,” says Lyle Rosman of Merrick. “My wife grew up Catholic but converted before we got married.” On Christmas Eve, they usually celebrate with Gina’s family, and they hang stockings on their own fireplace for their two boys, Adam, 9, and Matthew, 6.
Lyle and Gina also collect menorahs. In 2013, when Hanukkah fell on the same day as Thanksgiving, Lyle Rosman launched a tradition of making a themed menorah with his two sons each year to add to the family collection. That year, they constructed a menorah for “Thanksgivakkah,” using a cutout of a turkey.
This year, it seemed a natural to have a “Christmaskkah” menorah. So Lyle, Adam and Matthew used Santa’s eight reindeer to mark each of the menorah’s eight candles, with Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for the shamas candle. And, because the last night of Hanukkah falls on New Year’s Eve, the Rosmans decorated the back side of the menorah with a New Year’s theme and will flip it around on the final night.