Growing up in Soviet Union in the 70s we were not allowed to believe in anything but communism. All the churches were nothing but museums, all the synagogues were lonely buildings, that nobody knew anything about it. None of us knew about Christmas, Chanukkah, Easter, and Passover. The Soviet Government invented their own holidays and honestly we, the kids did not mind, we did not know any better. The only holiday that had nothing to do with communism was the NEW YEAR!!!!
On this holiday everybody were putting up trees, and NO those weren’t Christmas trees or Chanukkah Bushes, those were NEW YEAR trees, free of all the religious and communism symbols.
Our family tradition every year was for my father, my brother and I to go out and to buy a tree. It was the most wonderful, exciting time for us, and nobody cared if we were Jewish or not. It was the time we were waiting for Grandpa Frost and his granddaughter Snow Maiden to visit us and to bring us our gifts. It was the most magical time for all the kids and even adults. It was and still is one of my favorite holidays.
…..so that was then…..before we moved to USA.
We came here in January of 1991 and all the holidays were over , ….but 11 months later we decided to go with our family tradition and to put up a New Year Tree for our 2-year-old son. My husband would dress up as Grandpa Frost and I would be his Snow Maiden 🙂 Fun isn’t it?!?!?!? Oh boy, were we surprised and shocked when everybody around us started to tell us not to do it. “You came here as Jewish refugees and you have to respect all the Jewish traditions”
Whaaaaaaaaaa….?!?!?! Are you kidding ?!?!?!
We could not understand what our New Year Tree or Grandpa Frost have to do with us being Jewish? We just wanted to have fun with our son on our favorite holiday; we didn’t want to offend anybody. My hubby and I looked at each other, then we looked at our baby……..“Screw them!” we thought and decided to celebrate the best of both worlds Old and New!!!! We lit our Menorah (by the way we found out about Chanukkah only when we came over here) and we put up our New Year Tree and YES we had our own Grandpa Frost that year, who brought presents for all of us.
Speed forwarding 20 years, my 2 boys love, love, love both holidays. What not to love, they get their gift on Chanukah and on New Year. We now celebrate every Jewish holiday that we weren’t allowed back in USSR, but a the same time we cherish our own family tradition and for the past twenty years and for the next twenty we are celebrating NEWYERKKAH! (borrowed from Chrismukkah :)) with our own New Year Tree and our beloved Grandpa Frost , who, I assure you, has nothing to do with Christmas.