Christmas Traditions: Valerie Steimle


Unorthodox Christmas Traditions

As a child, my parents were unorthodox in celebrating our Christmas holiday traditions. There was a reason for that: we were Jewish. Hanukah brought wonderful holiday traditions to our house. Each of the 8 nights of Hanukah we would light the Manorah at sun down and play with dreidels (spinning tops). We would eat chocolate coins called gelt (Yiddish word for money) and in the mornings my father would make potato latckes (potato pancakes) for breakfast. The problem was we lived in a predominately Christian neighborhood and my mother felt bad (or guilty) that we couldn’t celebrate Christmas too so each Christmas we had a tree as well. One front window had the Manorah and the other front window had a somewhat decorated Christmas tree.

Now as an adult, I celebrate Christmas with my children (as I have converted to Christianity) but want to keep my Judean traditions. One front window has the Christmas tree and the other has the Manorah. Since my husband had been a Christian all of his life we added a few extra traditions.

Every December 1st, I hung a cloth Advent calendar with pockets big enough to hold small candies. Each morning, one child would take a turn to move the Christmas mouse to the next pocket and pass out candy to each child until Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve we read the Story of the Christ Child from Luke chapter two along with reading The Journey of the Magi which was one of my husband’s favorite. We would give one gift to each of our children that night to open which was usually pajamas and then in the morning we would sit in a big circle around the tree. My husband would pass out one gift at a time instead of the mad dash which made opening presents last much longer and we could savor every minute.

Part of the children’s Christmas stocking treat was receiving their favorite box of cereal so they would eat that for breakfast and we would eat Christmas dinner later that afternoon. Christmas was a reminder to all of us how grateful we were for the Savior and we would anonymously deliver a plate of Christmas cookies to our neighbors.

Picture 355

Valerie Steimle is the mother of nine children living in southern Alabama and has been a family advocate for the past 25 years. She is the author of five books including Thoughts From the Heart: Writings from the Gulf Coast of Alabama which is a collection of her column of living life in Alabama and what is important. Visit her website or her blog for more information on her books or you can email her at