celebrations, Cultural differences, holidays, intermarriage

Holiday Mix and Match

A Christmas/Hanukkah sweater, sold by ModernTribe.com., reflects the commonality and celebration of intermarriage.


Offbeat holiday custom combos make me chuckle.


A clever depiction of a Hanukkah menorah made up of sushi.


First is the Hanukkah menorah made out of sushi. So what’s wrong with that? As long as the fish fit the regulations of being kosher and there’s no shellfish, it’s technically okay. Chenchi Schmukler, the rabbi’s wife at the Alevy Chabad Center in Las Cruces, occasionally includes homemade sushi at her marvelous meals. But sushi with latkes (the traditional Hanukkah fare)?  I don’t think so.


Halloween decorations hung on a Christmas Tree in a chain of Japanese stores called Tokyo Hands.


Another comical example comes from a Japanese store display last September. Some might call this “cultural appropriation,” insinuating that one should stick with one’s own ethnic/religious customs. Yet, in a way, it’s flattering that someone in the Japanese corporate world wanted to emulate American culture. However, next time they need to do their homework more carefully.


The Japanese seem fascinated with Christmas and call it  “kurisumasu.” For decades I heard stories about their nailing a Santa Claus to a cross for Christmas, despite it seeming more Easter-like. After finding this bizarre image online, I was disappointed to learn that it had been photoshopped. Snopes.com confirmed that there was no truth to this event. Even though it’s not valid, I include the photo because it’s such a startling image.

Fake photo of Santa Claus being crucified in Japan.


Then there are strange and incongruous mixtures here in the U.S. during the Christmas/Hanukkah season. I remember my own childhood conflicts being Jewish at Christmas time. I felt deprived without a Christmas tree  and the imagined fun being had by my Christian classmates.

ModernTribe.com targets Jewish shoppers and seems to have inventory addressed to this cultural conflict. They sell a Chrismukkah Stocking to be hung over the fireplace and filled with presents. The only difference is that instead of Christmas images on the stocking, the images are apropos of Hanukkah.

Chrismukkah stocking hung on the fireplace with care, from ModernTribe.com


They also sell what seems like a more tongue-in-cheek yarmulke (skull cap) trimmed in red and white Santa Claus colors and called a Yamaclaus. Listen to the company’s description:

  Why settle with one holiday, when you can crash them all? If you’re a lonely Jew on Christmas, a half-breed interfaith, or a gentile celebrating one of those eight crazy nights, with Yam Waclaus you’re automatically an honorary believer. If you’re feeling extra goyish, spread the love of Chrismukkah – the hybrid holiday where flaunting your Yamaclaus is your religious right.

Yamaclaus sold by ModernTribe.com. Photo by Mariah Chase. © Norine Dresser photo collection, 2018.


The above examples reveal that strict cultural rules about holiday celebrations are becoming less rigid, in great part due to globalization and growing intermarriage. Whether one approves or not, it is a reality.


My late husband, Harold, once accompanied me to a workshop devoted to interfaith issues. The leader broke us up into small groups and later when we all came back together, Harold whispered to me, “We don’t have any intermarriage in our family, do we?”

Highly amused, I answered, “Well, you have a Vietnamese sister-in-law, a Black nephew, a half-Iranian Muslim granddaughter, a Mexican American son-in-law, and an Italian American daughter –in-law, but other than that, no.”

What was so beautiful about Harold’s question was that he thought of these family members as JUST FAMILY; he didn’t see any ethnic or religious labels separating us from each other.

Three cheers for Harold! If only the rest of our world could see things the same way.


Norine Dresser is a folklorist who is very proud of her interfaith family and the cultural riches they bring to one another.



Visit Gallery of Folklore & Popular Culture

10 thoughts on “Holiday Mix and Match”

    1. Happy to hear that. Enjoy your holidays, Kristie, and give my love to Aline, as well. Harold and I loved your family. I still sing, “There is a boarding house…” and laugh.

  1. Shame on me, laughing out loud seeing Santa hung up on the Cross. Thank you for your indomitable sense of humor in these humorless times. YOU are the gift that keeps on giving!

    1. You are supposed to laugh at the Santa. It’s such an absurd notion. I wrestled with posting it since it’s unreal, but I love the way Japanese culture absorbs American/Western culture. I couldn’t resist. Yes without laughing, we are sunk. Love you, N.

  2. The Christmas holidays have always been a sore spot with me ever since I was old enough to start thinking for myself.
    I have always held that we should give and be generous all year and not try and placate and appease our consciences once a year. Although if it were not for this season, many I fear would not be so inclined to give at all
    What causes me the most heartache is the commercializations of the season. I confess I am not as religious in the traditional sense as many and often see this season with a jaundiced eye.
    I feel giving and receiving gifts to be a suspicious endeavor. Especially commercializing religion in my eyes to “cash in” on people’s beliefs.

    1. Suspicious Endeavor? Well, that’s mighty cynical, Rick. It’s a kind of “bah humbug” reaction. Sorry you feel that way, despite my agreeing with some of your sentiments.
      Well, only two more weeks and the entire so-called Happy Holidays will be over. BTW, does your wife share your sentiments?
      Thanks for your thoughts, Rick. And I promise not to send you a greeting card. 🙂

  3. Lovely sentiments, Norine. Here’s to whatever makes you and your loved ones smile. Me? I ignore everything between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. But I am gonna get one of those Santa on a Crosses — it will come in handy to keep carolers away! Being anti-religious I look forward to Santa bringing me my lump of coal, especially seeing how there’s so little of it left. Is there an insecticide for humbugs? Spray me now!

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