With the exception of the year my ex-fiance flew me up north to meet his sister, I have never missed a Christmas with my family. Not this year. This year the Bellis family is not attending Christmas with the extended family.

Being from an interfaith family, our decorations are a bit non- conventional. Our menorahs share a mantel with our Noel stocking holder, and our mezuzah shares the door frame that holds the wreath. Of course when my sister and I were growing up, my parents did a great job of making the Christmakkuh season special and fully celebrating both holidays. Latkes were eaten with tamales, and brisket shared the same table as the pan dulce.

This year started off like every other year, mom and I went to our annual “Merry-achi Christmas concert”, we sang the traditional songs and we dressed up in our holiday best. But that’s about it.

For the first time in my entire life, we didn’t put up our Christmas tree (aka the Bellis Hanukkah bush). I didn’t beg my dad to go up in the attic and get down all my fancy ornaments, nor did I wrap presents. We’re not spending Christmas with the extended family like we always do. This year, the Bellis family is skipping Christmas.

Now, of course we all have our reasons. My dad (the tribe member) and my sister (the convert) are indifferent as Christmas isn’t their holiday anyways. My mom couldn’t get into the spirit because everyone is off doing their own thing and we as a huge extended family are too big to fit all the aunts, uncles, and cousins under one roof anymore. It’s not the same for her as its been in years past. I simply wanted a quiet time of reflection without the noise of a retail hyped holiday.

We got our fill of get together’s, family company, and traditional holiday staples with Hanukkah this year. It was the best one I can ever recall having and this photo below of what was my best Hanukkah prior to this year’s is only still on the list of top 5 because of the taffeta and velvet polka dot dress (can you say 1991 anyone?).

*Note the awesome headbands, I couldn’t decide so I took both with me and interchanged them throughout the night. Early signs of a fashionista.

photo courtesy of Audrey Bellis

photo courtesy of Audrey Bellis

This year’s Hanukkah was extra special because I joined The Times of Israel family. While some commentors had harsh opinions, the out-pour via friend requests, emails, and private messages was tremendous. I have never felt more connected to my Jewish side than this year.

This year I didn’t need four weeks of Advent to prepare me for the coming of Christ- rather I’ve spent months being connected to strangers (via The Times of Israel) that while we may differ on religious beliefs, have shared kindness, empathy, and support in ways I can only describe as Godly.

I didn’t need the over buying, over hyped Christmas. The Grinch may have taken over the superficial “holiday spirit” but my heart and soul found a quiet peace.

Tonight, we the Bellis family will have a nice quiet dinner. Just the 4 of us on Christmas Eve, to celebrate the support and love we have for each other. While it won’t look like any other holiday season we’ve had before, I think this year has brought us the most meaning.

Merry Christmas to those who celebrate. Thank you to my Times of Israel family, but most importantly, thank you to all those who reached out, shared your personal experiences, and challenged me to explore my faith(s) a little deeper.

From my heart, to yours.

 

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