Home » My Story » Chanukah Bush or Christmas Tree?

Chanukah Bush or Christmas Tree?

A very young Sami in front of her Chanukah Bush

Growing up as a young child, neither of my parents were very religious, yet neither seemed to want to give in to the other.

As a first-generation American, my father was a cultural Jew and my mother grew up in the church of England; so while both had religious customs, neither practiced their religion regularly.

Still, when it came to holidays, both had distinct points of view…thus the Chanukah Bush.

Somehow in my parents’ minds, a compromise of both religions meant buying a very short Christmas tree to decorate and calling it a Chanukah bush. Now we still lit the Menorah (and I can still recite my Chanukah prayer & sing my dreidel song to this day – some 30 years later!), but even then, I thought it was a bit strange.

My school friends thought I was so lucky because they assumed double holidays meant double presents, but in fact it was just the same amount, though labeled differently depending on which side of the family they came from 🙂

Today I can look back on it and laugh, though at the time I remember feeling very torn between two very different worlds. Our celebration wasn’t a unification of two different cultures, but instead an internal division within a family. In fact, I wish had actually been taught more about my Jewish heritage because it’s so rich in history and tradition.

Having lived all over the world, I’m a firm believer in learning about the customs of other cultures and how we all influence each other in this great, big world.

To think any of us have all the answers is naive, but to think someone of a different belief has nothing valid to say is just ignorant.

Why not take some time this holiday season to discover how someone else celebrates, even if it’s just stepping out within your own faith?

For a real treat, be sure to check out my Aunt Ellen’s Sponge Cake Recipe!


  1. I love your sentiment at the end … the pic is a riot! And yes, that dreidel song is quite the earworm.