“You cannot tell anyone that Santa isn’t real,”

was the only sentence I remember hearing as my parents drove me to a Christmas party. This is because it was the only sentence they said to me on repeat for the entire 30 minute drive. I’d like to stop here to give some advice. If you need a child to keep a secret, it will not happen. Ever. My parents were probably better off telling me to recite the Constitution, do long division, short division, or any division. I was maybe six, and my brother was three. I had to spend the entire party among other young kids, holding my tongue. Does anyone know what it’s like to hold the biggest secret that could unlock the fabric of space and time itself? No? I don’t either, because I am absolutely sure I immediately told those kids that Santa isn’t real. The real kicker? As we all know now, he is absolutely real.

When thinking about what to write for this, I fought with myself over whether to start with that anecdote. In our culture, Hanukkah is frequently introduced or discussed as the stepchild of Christmas. Playing second fiddle, so to speak, is something that Jewish people have long had to endure. And while Hanukkah is great, and I have extremely fond memories of it growing up, Christmas is just so darn fun. Accentuated even more by my own child, who is half Christian, and my significant other, who is Christian, the winter holidays, including Kwanzaa, New Year’s, etc., are all on the same footing to me. They are not clashing ceremonies based on competing ideologies and traditions but are celebrations. Whether it’s a miracle of lights, a celebration of African-American culture, the commemoration of the birth of Jesus Christ, or simply the hope that the new year won’t be the absolute dumpster fire that it absolutely will be, as a secular Jew, the end of December just means happiness.

Christmas party.

Once all of the kids at that party were wailing in tears, as they’d just realized the only thing they held to be true was a lie, I hadn’t yet reached full enlightenment on the meaning of the season. This was not happiness. This was chaos, punctuated by frosted cookies and gift opening under the tree.

These days, I usually don’t go around telling children that Santa isn’t real. Of course, the main reason is that he is absolutely real.

Ten plus years ago,

as I started my onboarding process on my first day on the job here, I was given a Family Finder test. I was excited to learn about my ancestral makeup and to find relatives I never knew existed. I was curious to know if I have Jewish ancestry as a percentage of my genetic makeup. My results, much to my surprise, revealed that they were mostly Jewish. Though that is a joke and I wasn’t shocked at all, I also got to discover other, smaller percentages that made me, well, me.

As you may know, Jewish people historically have been very insulated and intermarried a lot in the past. As a result, people with Jewish ancestry will frequently match with others with Jewish ancestry on Family Finder who are a little closer than the actual relationship is. We have implemented tools to help mitigate this, but since a large percentage of us all have a lot of similar DNA, we typically have more matches. As soon as my results were posted, I noticed I was a distant match to our then company COO. I ran to his office and kindly asked him, since we are now family, if I could have some of his inheritance. He kindly told me to get out of his office.

Jewish father and son reading Hebrew bible before family dinner during Hanukkah.

While a lot of Jewish traditions and holidays stem from hardship and struggle, I like how Hanukkah has evolved into a festive celebration. After all, it is based on a miracle. My son, who is both Christian and Jewish, had a great idea this year to put up a Christmas tree with a menorah on top instead of a star. I don’t mean to diminish anyone who celebrates one winter holiday, as that’s generally almost everyone reading this, but I have been afforded the opportunity to enjoy everything I can.

Last weekend was our company’s holiday party.

This time, my parents weren’t there to tell me to keep secrets from other partygoers. But even if they did, they didn’t have to. It was wonderful, and the presence of Santa was felt, as was the understanding of the resilience of my own ancestors. Hanukkah is a relatively minor holiday in religious terms. However, the stories of the rededication of the Second Temple and the miracle of light weren’t lost on me as I sat there. I may not be here if not for the people who came before me. Also, the chicken skewers were really good.

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