Jen Walker is a member of Hallmark’s Trend Studio and one of Think.Make.Share’s founders. She’s a creative force to be reckoned with, or not to reckon with: Just get outta the way! So it’s no surprise that Jen’s home life is full of creativity, innovative celebrations, and a whole lot of fun, too. Read on to see how Jen’s family celebrates both Hanukkah and Christmas.
I’m Jewish, and my husband is Catholic. My family celebrated Hanukkah when I was growing up. We did seven presents instead of eight because we always donated a present. We received one “big” one, and the rest were the “fillers.” My extended family came over for the first night of Hanukkah, and my mom always made the latkes. We played the dreidel game and spent time together. My sister and I asked our parents if we could set up a “Hanukkah bush” in our house. We got the same response every year: “When you have your own place, you can celebrate any way you want.”
The first Christmas that I spent with Nick was like a storybook Christmas—the Christmas I dreamed of when I was growing up. The presents were overflowing, and the house was filled with wonderful scents. They had 12 different kinds of cookies and a wonderful wood-burning fire. I liked this holiday. A lot.
When we had children, Nick and I knew that we’d have to figure out ways to incorporate both religions and both of our traditions. Nick and I are not religious at all, but our cultures are very important to us. So this is how we celebrate the holidays: I start decorating the house right after Halloween. I know it seems too early, but I love the way my house feels and looks with holiday decor. I like to enjoy it as long as I can.
We have four trees. The main one is in the living room right by the fire. It has all of our memories throughout the years represented on that tree: My first ornament, 11 different firetruck Keepsake Ornaments for all the years Nick and I have been together (Nick is a firefighter), seven Santa photos, our wedding ornament, and my collection of owl ornaments.
Rowan (2 years old) and Maddox (7 years old) each have their own tree. Their trees have reminders of trips we took, movies they loved, and their favorite books. Each year I buy the kids a new Hallmark Keepsake Ornament. The big one this year was Elsa from Frozen.
I also have a baking tree. My mother-in-law and I share a love of baking (she’s way better than me), and every year we try to find each other the best baking ornament to give each other.
This is how we celebrate Hanukkah: Maddox and I do the Hanukkah blessings in Hebrew. He knows them now and likes to light the candles and say the blessings on his own. I wrap the presents differently than our Christmas presents, but they still coordinate. We do not put Hanukkah presents under the Christmas tree. We always have a Hanukkah party where we invite family and friends to celebrate with us. I make my mom’s latkes and some of my favorite Hanukkah recipes, and the kids exchange gifts. I’m the only one in my friend group in the Midwest who’s Jewish, so I enjoy introducing my traditions to my friends…and now to their kids. My kids also shop with me to pick out a gift to be donated, just like I did growing up. I think it’s really important to teach kids to give at the holidays (and all year long).
We celebrate Christmas with Nick’s family on Christmas Eve. We get together for a fabulous, indulgent meal, and we exchange gifts with each other. We go back to our own houses and leave cookies and a special handmade craft out for Santa. The kids wake up in the morning, and I make a bunch of casseroles and hot cocoa, and we open presents.
I love the holidays and I love how we celebrate them!
How do you celebrate your holidays? Tag us on Instagram (@think.make.share) to share your traditions, parties, quiet moments and more with us!
All photos by Hallmark photographer Jane Kortright.