My Family's Holiday Tradition is No Tradition

Eighteen years ago, I married the love of my life.

He is a British ex-pat with a wonderful family who live 6,000 miles away. My own family lives about 400 miles from my home town of Los Angeles.

By the time our daughter was born, we realized we were at a disadvantage by having no close relatives to lean on here.

On top of that: All the holidays were "taken."

My sister has Thanksgiving and New Year, which means we drive north to her home in Sacramento to celebrate those. Christmas in her family belongs to her mother-in-law -- which makes sense, as my sister and I are Jewish and grew up with no real December traditions.

My husband and I have had to make ours up as we go along, which hasn't always been easy, because it kind of depends upon whether or not we've scraped up the funds to visit his family in the UK.

Of course, all the holidays are "taken" over there, too - mainly by my sister-in-law. This is fine with me, as she is a much better cook than I, and let's face it: the Jewish girl doesn't really "get" Christmas. I appreciate it, but I will always be on the outside, looking in.

Wales is beautiful, and I enjoy spending Christmas there. We shop near the ancient castle that sits in the city centre, we visit the 13th century neighborhood church where my husband was confirmed. We take our daughter ice skating at the annual Winter Wonderland festival. Most important, I get to reacquaint myself with my in-laws and nephews, which is wonderful.

But it's cold. I mean, really, really cold. And no acknowledgment of the traditions of my family.

In December, that would be Chanukah, which is a minor festival., We observe it the usual way, with candles and fried potato latkes and I give our daughter eight smallish stocking-stuffer-like gifts, which is usually supplemented by something really off the charts from my parents.

But Chanukah falls on the 25th day of Kislev on the Hebrew calendar, which is based on a lunar month. Some years, the holiday coincides nicely with Christmas, and getting everything together is kind of easy, because everyone else is doing the same. Other years, it pops up right on the heels of Thanksgiving, and I have to hustle.

This is one of those years. The first night of Chanukah falls on the evening of December 1.

I only just realized it on November 25. Yes, at the Thanksgiving table, in Sacramento, when my mom handed me an envelope with cash to give my daughter (gelt is the traditional gift at Chanukah, and now that she's a teenager, it's probably what's most appreciated).

And so I begin what I have come to realize is the only holiday tradition I adhere to, year after year after year.

Last minute shopping.