This year, Hanukah and Christmas overlapped, which made for a much easier holiday season. I liked that it kept Mazzy’s birthday (Dec 9th) separate from the holiday gift influx and I think we got away with a far less presents. Relatives saw the kids over vacation, so their gifts became that day’s Hanukah gift. Christmas gifts counted as that day’s Hanukah gift too. There were still WAY too many presents, but at least it didn’t feel like a solid month of back to back excess.

The biggest gift we got for Hanukah? A hot tub for the house! This was a gift to ourselves and it is Mike’s dream come true.

Harlow put “making fun snacks” ahead of “getting presents” when she listed her favorite things to do over the holidays, so once we got to the house, we got right to work on some Christmas cookies.

Unfortunately, we don’t own any holiday themed cookie cutters and the only icing in our cabinet was pink and white, so our Christmas cookies were a little untraditional.

Harlow also made Buddy the Elf Chex Mix, which involved lots of maple syrup, cinnamon, pretzels, mini Nilla wafers, sprinkles, marshmallows, M&Ms, drizzled white chocolate and drizzled milk chocolate. Pretty much the kitchen sink of Chex Mix, but the perfect snack for our favorite holiday movie. Elf. Obviously.

The other person who never left the kitchen was Mike. He made Little Miss Party’s latke recipe, which is the closest thing to following a recipe from our own family.

They came out perfectly crisp and delicious. Thanks, Seri!

Over the past few years, we have gotten a small potted tree and then planted it in the yard after Christmas. This is harder than it sounds because a potted tree weighs about 1ooo pounds and Mike is the one who is usually responsible for figuring out how to get in and out of the house. Last year, we also had an incident where it fell on my foot, which left me hobbling for most of vacation. So, as lovely as that tradition sounds, Mike put an end to it this year.

We got a regular chopped down tree like everyone else and bought ourselves our very first tree stand.

Our tree was still small, but I admit, it gets slightly taller every year. I think this is because our kids are getting taller too, and also to accommodate our growing number of ornaments. This year, we added a set of a dozen doughnuts (a gift from Allie), an avocado (something Mazzy bought with her own money at a holiday market), and Santa riding an alligator from our trip to New Orleans.

For the first time, Harlow appreciated the ornaments from years past, like the Radio City Music Hall ornament from that time we danced with the Rockettes and the pink flamingo we bought in Mexico after a flock of flamingoes crossed our path. It was fun to see her recognize them and recount the memories from each one.

My favorite ornament is still the Jewish star we put on top. Mazzy made it out of pipe cleaners four years ago, the first year we got a tree. I’m always surprised when I take it out of storage and it is still mostly in tact.

After a falling out with Santa last year, Mazzy had a renewed belief in the magic of the North Pole, thanks to a Santa brunch at the National, where Santa somehow knew her birthday. But, come Christmas Eve, she was still a little on the fence. She put out milk, cookies and carrots with the rest of the kids, but then stopped short at writing Santa a note.

No matter. Harlow was all in and took over.

She wished Santa a Merry Christmas and told him not to touch our Mensch on the Bench, who had made a comfortable spot for himself at the top of the tree.

I should note that both kids no longer believe that the Mensch on the Bench is magical and moves on his own. Mostly because they found him in my closet during our renovation. I have not admitted that I move him, so now it’s become a fun game where everybody secretly moves him, including the kids, and we all pretend like we don’t know what’s happening. Which, I have to say, might be even more fun because I get surprised by him as much as the kids do.

Anyway, Mazzy opted out of leaving a note, but then when it was time to go to bed and everyone went upstairs, I saw her sneak back down and leave a little note. I took a peek at it later that night and it said “Bye Santa,” which could be totally innocent or totally heartbreaking, depending on how much you want to read into it. I should also tell you that Mazzy never told Santa or me or anyone what she wanted for Christmas this year, so Santa was going to have to take a very good guess.

That night, Mazzy stayed up for hours and hours, trying her best to uncover whatever it is that happens on Christmas Eve, when all the children are fast asleep. She finally conked out at about 1am and Santa got to work.

Let me just say, he knocked it out of the park this year.

Months ago, Mazzy asked me to order her a limited edition T-shirt from her favorite YouTuber, Moriah Elizabeth. It was a black t-shirt with a dinosaur named Pickles on it. (Don’t ask. I’m just happy when Mazzy likes an item of clothing.) I thought I ordered it, but it never came.  Mazzy waited for that package to arrive for weeks, asking me daily what happened to it. Then I got an email from the site asking if I wanted to purchase the item in my cart. I assumed that I had messed up the transaction and never completed my order. When I clicked on the link in the email, it sent me to a page that was no longer valid. Then, when I went on the site to find the item again, it said it was sold out. Ultimately, I had to break it to Mazzy that I messed up and there was nothing I could do about it. She was really sad about it because Moriah Elizabeth typically sells out special edition items and then never makes them again.

Well, somehow Santa must have a Moriah Elizabeth connection, because on Christmas morning, there it was, wrapped under the tree! Mazzy was absolutely GOBSMACKED. I have never used that word before, but how else to describe the face below?

Now. I knew the gift was under the tree, but I was equally surprised two days earlier when I suddenly found the package at the house. Here’s my best guess as to what happened… my order did go through after all but it arrived really late. Then Mike must have accidentally taken the envelope from the mail before I saw it and put it in the bin with all of my Hanukah gifts that I was bringing to the house. Which seems like a stretch but I have no other explanation. The other thing I can’t explain is the email I got from the merch site that said I had failed to complete my order. When it never arrived, I really believed I had messed up the order and it wasn’t coming. I didn’t see the package until we got to the house, two days before Christmas when I unpacked all of my Hanukah gifts to wrap them.

Truly a Christmas miracle. Especially since, prior to finding the shirt, my main Santa gift to Mazzy was make up for her American Girl dolls, which she didn’t even want and traded with Harlow for a slime kit!


I think the big story coming out of my house this holiday season is how surprised and happy and thankful Mazzy has been about all her gifts, which includes Christmas, Hanukah and her birthday. I remember a few years ago thinking that my kids had no real appreciation for anything. And I thought they’d both grow gradually less impressed and the gifts they’d  want would become increasingly less affordable.

But instead, I managed to wow Mazzy with roller skates…

A handcrafted journal…

…and $6 pink hair extensions.

It’s nice to know that for some kids, gratefulness comes with age and maturity.

As for Harlow, she asked Santa for an LOL OMG doll (which she got), but was most excited over a big squishie doughnut. Sometimes Santa knows your kids better even better than they do.

I want to add one last thing about why this holiday season has come to mean so much to me. And I know it means a lot to everyone and it doesn’t really need to be explained, but there is something particular about this Christmas that I didn’t realize until Neve got a fever the day before my sister was supposed to arrive at our house and I got scared they would cancel.

I have never been one to host the holidays. Our apartment isn’t big enough for a big sit down family dinner. And I’m pretty useless in the kitchen. Mike’s cousins do Thanksgiving. My mom does Rosh Hashanah. Mike’s aunt and uncle do Passover. My sister does a Hanukah party. Those were the holidays we celebrated growing up and it’s never even occurred to me to take any of them over. We just show up and bring dessert.

This year, as the cousins were all playing with their new toys, the Mikes were in the kitchen planning dinner, and my sister and I were working on our annual puzzle, I realized that Christmas has become my holiday. I wasn’t really counting it because, HELLO, we’re Jewish, but we are on our fourth year of hosting. I think I feel comfortable doing it because it’s for a group of people who probably wouldn’t celebrate it otherwise. Collectively, we have no expectations for how it’s supposed to go down. There is no fancy dinner or going all out with seasonal decor. There is no big lead up or prep period. We literally drive to the house two days before the big day.

On Christmas Eve Eve this year, we were driving from nursery to nursery trying to find someone who was not sold out of trees. We finally found one at Home Depot but they were all out of stands. Then we went from Home Goods to Target to Costco, before finding a stand at Loews a few minutes before it closed.

I guess you could say we throw a “remarkably average” Christmas, which is obviously very on brand for us. It’s small, laid back, and last minute. But everyone is happy. And drinking. And watching movies. And playing games…

The first time we celebrated Christmas was when Mazzy was four and my Catholic stepmother invited us all to her house for the holidays. She did the whole thing for the kids— presents under the tree, stockings, etc. They were so little but they ate it up with a spoon. It was the best. After that, my sister and I couldn’t imagine denying them that same magic the following year, so I volunteered to host at my place.

That year, I didn’t know it at the time, an important family tradition was born. It’s not just the giving and the magic. It’s the holiday we host in our home.


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