Celebrating Hanukkah and Kwanzaa Feels Extra Important This Year

The holiday season is upon us, and this year it feels more special and important than ever before. My home is interfaith and intercultural; this year we will be celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa all in one go. The holidays even overlap – Hanukkah ends the same night Kwanzaa begins, and Christmas is sandwiched between the two.

Practically speaking, this means that our household is about to be busy: preparing for one holiday is work in and of itself, but preparing for three is monumental. There’s been a tree to find and decorate, something we managed to check off our list in early December. Our first handmade kinara arrived the same week, and we’ve finally found the black, red, and green candles that represent the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Gelt, dreidels, and our menorah are all ready to go, and I think – I hope – the multi-holiday menu is going to work.

The emotional and spiritual preparation is something else altogether. Given the events of 2022, it feels especially poignant and special to celebrate all three holidays at the same time. Each member of our blended family is represented in more than one way – there’s also a lot of overlap in who celebrates which holiday and why, and ultimately our family is fully engaged with each celebration no matter what. 

It’s been a joy to learn how Hanukkah, Christmas, and Kwanzaa intersect and support one another. For example, though Hanukkah is a minor holiday it’s one of my favorites on the calendar and something that I look forward to each year. In our home, Hanukkah is a celebration of perseverance, family, success, hope, and, of course, light – it’s a holiday that brings us together over warm and toasty food, the importance of giving to others, and the collective responsibility that we have for one another, both as Jews and as people. 

Kwanzaa has a similar focus on community, food, family, unity, and purpose. Each candle represents a tenet of life that honors the ancestors and the people who are celebrating the holiday together. The Umoja candle represents unity for family, community, nation, and race, while the Ujima candle represents collective responsibility for the community that an individual or family lives in. It’s not difficult to see where Hanukkah and Kwanzaa intersect – both are celebrations of ancestral pride, both nurture family and the home, and both holidays bring people together over food. 

Of course, Christmas somehow manages to do all of this in one day and not the eight nights of Hanukkah and seven days of Kwanzaa, which makes it a fun (and in our home, secular) way to enjoy a third holiday in a way that brings everything together. We’ll make our sufganiyot on December 25 and exchange gifts the same day (because otherwise three holidays of gifts would be a lot) before eating jerk chicken that night. The best part of having access to all three holidays and the way they line up this year is that we can spread out our celebration plans across several  weeks, maximizing all the best parts of each holiday to the fullest.

This year has been challenging for a lot of us in the Jewish and Black communities, but there has also been a lot of joy and light. If ever there is a time of year to appreciate this completely, it’s got to be Chrismukkwanzaa.

And yes, we’re still workshopping the name.