Sometime shortly after sunset, our family will gather around the dinner table to light the first candles on each of our Menorahs. Led by an authoritative and pleasant voice on our Hanukkah app that also keeps track of which night of Hanukkah we're celebrating, we'll recite the Hebrew prayer that accompanies the candle lighting.
After a round of "Happy Hanukkahs" and kisses for the kids, we'll instruct Levi, Sadie and Ella to select one present each from among those lying on the floor under our Christmas tree and marked with their names. While there are always more gifts than we’d prefer, the truth is most don't come from me and Ferd, but instead from loving family and friends who tend to ignore or resist our pleas to limit the number of toys our kids get.
The gifts they open tonight will be their "first night" gifts, and we've found that the process of choosing which present to open first tends to be the most exciting part of the whole gift-giving experience for them.
Brian with his three kids
With the kids still pre-occupied on the task of unwrapping their presents, Ferd (my non-Jewish husband) will put out the platter of his delicious made-from-scratch potato latkes that always bring me back to my own childhood watching my great-grandmother standing over her cast-iron stove doing what she loved doing most: feeding her family.
Before getting the kids off to bed, we'll put out a bowl of milk and a plate of fresh-baked cookies for Santa and his reindeer to snack on. Every year the kids tell us they'll stay up waiting for Santa, but the excitement and anticipation somehow works against them, and they always fall asleep soon after settling into bed.
On Christmas morning the kids will invariably wake before us, but they're under strict instructions not to open any gift before we've joined them. In addition to more gift openings, we all look forward to Ferd’s Christmas breakfast treats reminiscent of his Dutch childhood.
Having been together for almost 25 years, Ferd and I started blending our holidays a long time ago. We used to be more relaxed about how we spent them. Since becoming dads, we are much more focused on celebrating holidays that hold special meaning for us. We've been creating new traditions around these holidays that I hope will stay with our kids well into their adult lives.
To show how other interfaith dads celebrate the holidays and what new traditions they create for their own families, we’ve asked a few other gay dad couples to tell their stories.
Shane, 38, grew up Catholic. After meeting Phillip, he became fascinated with the Jewish faith.
Shane lighting the menorah with Dahlia
The dads feel it’s important that the family celebrates both holidays as a way to give the kids a sense of their family roots. Dahlia, 3, and Laydon, 1½, each have their own menorah that the dads help them light each night of Hanukkah. They also picked out a small tree just for the kids to decorate.
The family enjoys reading Hanukkah and Christmas books throughout the holiday season, and they even alternate between listening to Hanukkah and Christmas stations on XM radio. As the dads explained to us, their home is spiritual, and they are purposely exposing their children to different ideas about religion to help them form their own opinions when they get older.
Philip and Dahlia
Robbie is Jewish and has celebrated Hanukkah all his life. He remembers celebrating Christmas until he was about 6, but explains that it was really because of his mom's fondness for the holiday decor.
Allen has always celebrated Christmas. When the guys became a couple in 2008 they simply celebrated the combined list of holidays from both of their backgrounds. Still, the dads are quick to point out that holidays for them are more about family than any religious practice.
Robbie and Allen with Santa and Dylan
The dads have referred to the celebration of the two holidays as Chrimukkah for several years, and they enjoy celebrating with family and friends. They throw an annual holiday party and host Christmas Day for family and close friends. They both love to cook and bake, so everything they serve is homemade.
Dylan is getting into cooking too and loves to help pour, mix, and stir. ("Dylan do that!" "Dylan do it!"). The house is decked out with a modern tree and garland and a menorah. Dylan loves the ornaments and the lights.
Toronto dads B.J. and Frankie created this video to share their plans for celebrating Chrismukkah with their son Milo.