My mum converted to Judaism in 1986, six years before we moved to America. Neither of my parents had a religious upbringing, so neither did I. My father’s family already lived in Florida, but my mum left all hers behind in England, which was very difficult for her. My holiday memories growing up are hazy, because we could never afford to be extravagant. I’ve never done a full 8 days of Hannukah in my life. I can’t remember exactly when Christmas began creeping into our traditions, but if I had to guess, I would say it started more after 1996. That year, my mum was in England caring for my grandma, who died on December 26. After that, the holidays became fully enmeshed, until one finally surpassed the other. My mum is fiercely proud of being Jewish, and Yom Kippur and Rosh Hashanah are always celebrated in her house. But December is now Chirstmastime, and it has nothing to do with religion. For her, Christmas is about her home. Now, when my mum decorates her tree, she is thinking of her own mother that she misses every day. She is remembering her childhood, her traditions, her history. Nothing about Florida resembles England, and in only a few years she’ll have spent most of her life here than there. But each December, she’s able to make the palm tree and high humidity feel just like home.
– Gemma Solomons