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Blogmas Day 2: Guest post by Samantha Bryant

Join me in welcoming Samantha to the blog. She has graciously agreed to #guestpost and I’m so happy to have her. She’s written a fun post on how her family spends the holidays. I personally, found it really interesting.

Please look at the end of her post for her links where you can find her and her books.

If you missed Blogmas Day 1, please go check that out.

Without further ado, let’s get onto today’s post. 🙂

Winter Holidays in La Casa Bryant

I married a nice Catholic boy a few years ago (has it already been 14? Where does the time go?). As we approached our first holiday season together, I asked him how he felt about celebrating Chanukah. Though I’m not particularly religious, I have always liked The Festival of Lights for its emphasis on family time and the beauty of the candles and prayers. 

I was delighted when he said yes. So, we’ve been celebrating both Christmas and Chanukah ever since.

I especially like it when the two calendars line up so that Chanukah comes early in December, and we can enjoying the quieter celebration fully before the flashier Christmas comes on the scene. We’ll get that this year. It was really cool in 2013 when Chanukah lined with Thanksgiving and we had Thanksgivukkah, but that’s a once in a lifetime experience quite literally. The two calendars won’t overlap like that again until 2070!

Most years, it blends beautifully. It’s like that old candy commercial : You got your Christmas in my Chanukah! You got your Chanukah in my Christmas! Will these two tastes really taste great together? Yes! They really do!

The first year we nearly bankrupted ourselves with our celebrations. Eight nights of presents for Chanukah, plus the amount of gift-giving that my husband was used to for Christmas gave us both sticker shock and credit card debt. 

So, the second year, we decided to do it differently. Instead of doing gifts for each of the eight nights of Chanukah, we would do family activities. We loved it! So, that’s been our approach ever since. 

First Night is always dreidels and gelt.

Our eldest is now an independent woman of twenty years old, so she may or may not join us for First Night this year, depending on her school and work schedule. But our youngest has gained comfort with the prayers and the candle lighting and is enjoying getting to take the lead. Whether we have three or four Bryants, though, we’ll light the candles, sing the prayers, and play dreidel until we’ve had enough (or have eaten all the gelt). 

For the second to seventh nights, we plan a range of activities. Usually, there’s an art night where we create a collage together, or make paintings, or sculpt clay. There’s usually a game night and a movie night, too. Often there’s a music night, where we share music we love with each other. 

Sometimes there’s a baking or cooking night to bring us all into the kitchen together to make Jewish treats like sufganiyot (doughnuts), latkes (potato pancakes), matzo ball soup, or a beautiful braided challah (bread) that scents our whole house with saffron. 

Once per celebration, we try to go out and “do something” together, though that’s probably not going to happen this year, since we’re very cautious about our exposure to COVID. Still, I have a lot of happy memories of our outings for bowling, laser tag, trampolining, dancing, and other fun activities. Maybe this year, we’ll get out into the woods and listen to creek run, if the weather allows. It might! It’s sometimes quite temperate in North Carolina in December. 

For Eighth Night, we give each other a gift. I rather like the singularity of it: just one gift for each person (and of course, for the dog and the pet snake, too!). It makes those gifts more special sometimes, since they aren’t one of many in a flurry of wrapping paper. 

We have a tradition of getting the girls something snuggly: stuffed animals or blankets or cozy sweaters. Because I’m an “experiences over objects” girl, I often receive tickets to an upcoming event. I try to come up with something creative for Sweetman, something that he’ll use all year, but never knew he wanted. 

Blended families always have balances to strike, but I love what we’ve found for ours. I always leave the season feeling full of light and love and ready to face the next year together. 

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Samantha Bryant believes in love, magic, unexplainable connections, and second chances. She loves lonely beaches, untamed cliff tops, and sunlight through the leaves of trees. From Kentucky and living in North Carolina, she left her heart in Alaska. She’s tougher than she looks and softer than she likes to let on. 

Best known for the Menopausal Superhero series, she also writes other feminist-leaning fiction. Learn more about her and her work at http://samanthabryant.com or find her on Twitter or Instagram @samanthabwriter

Ruth Anne Garcia

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