I remember going to Jr. Congregation at Beth El Synagogue in downtown Durham from about 10-12 years old, before the “new” shul was built on Watts Street in 1956. Although I can’t recall the services, I can still taste the orange Tru Ade drinks we had at Kiddush afterwards in the “vestry” room (a fancy name for the basement).
As a teenager, I’d invite my gentile friends over to celebrate Hanukkah and they’d invite me to their homes to string popcorn on their Christmas trees. They were always jealous that we got to celebrate 8 days and get presents every night. At our house, we also celebrated Santa Claus, hanging stockings up on the mantle Christmas Eve and having them stuffed with little presents. My mother didn’t want my brother and me to feel left out so we also colored Easter eggs and had Easter egg hunts.
As my husband and I raised our own children here, we did not feel the need to “assimmilate” them, although every December they asked if we could move to Israel because they were sick of having every public school class contain something about Christmas celebrations. We had our own way of celebrating Hanuakkah: first night — presents from grandparents, second night — presents from aunt and uncle, third night — presents from kids to parents, fourth night — kids exchange presents with each other, fifth night — presents from other relatives, sixth through eighth night — presents from parents. Our kids are now adults and their favorite gifts are still those from their siblings.
Lynne of Durham