If you’ve read my about me page, you know that I was born in Ukraine, where “Christmas” traditions are a bit different. But that doesn’t stop me from enjoying all the parties and presents and holiday traditions of this wonderful country.
Every year, on December 24th, millions of people around the world get together with their families and friends, eat yummy food and in the case of my husband’s family, sing happy birthday to Jesus. Great grandma hands out Christmas gifts to her 20 some grandchildren, great grandchildren and even I snag a gift or two.
The following day, Christmas morning, holds the promise that Santa Clause and his eight reindeer dashed from roof top to roof top in the night, sliding down the chimney (despite his plump appearance) leaving gifts under the tree for all the good boys and girls, coal for the naughty ones and even had time to enjoy milk and cookies. Serious kudos to the big guy in the red suit.
Growing up, we always celebrated Novy God, which in Russian means New Year. Basically, we have the “Christmas” tree with the presents for New Years Eve (Just like Christmas Eve) and New Year’s day is just like Christmas Day. We open presents left by Ded Moroz (Grandfather Frost) and his granddaughter Snegurochka (The Snow Maiden).
So in our unique family situation this is how it works. My husband, who was raised Catholic, grew up in NJ, has a huge Italian family on his mother’s side. So Christmas (like all other holidays) is celebrated in NJ. Christmas eve at great- grandma’s house where we all get presents, Christmas morning at my in-law’s with my husband’s brother and his new wife, where we all exchange gifts. And Christmas day lunch with my father in-laws sister and her family where the kids get even more presents. If you’ve lost count, that’s 3 times the presents.
And if that’s not enough, we leave the tree up for the rest of the year, impatiently awaiting Novy God. When Ded Moroz and Snegurochka leave even more presents for the kids to enjoy on New Years Day. Since the kids get so many presents from my husband’s family, we wait for Novy God to give them our presents and exchange presents with each other.
My parents moved back to Israel a few years ago and the only close family I have is my brother who lives in Long Island and sometimes joins us for Novy God. It works out perfectly, since we can wait to see what the kids get from other people and then buy them and each other presents after the Christmas rush. So that’s 4 rounds of presents for my spoiled kiddos. Isn’t that something.
I’ve never been much for tradition, I haven’t celebrated any of the Jewish holidays since I moved to the US. But for some reason, Novy God is really the only tradition I remember celebrating with my family every year when I was little. And it means so much to me that I can impart just one experience from my heritage onto my kiddos who have no other Russian influences from any where.