This year we are not having a traditional Christmas. We haven’t gone down to my mother’s in southern California, we don’t have a tree, we don’t have lights on the house, and we aren’t opening presents in the morning. However, I have really enjoyed saying “Merry Christmas” to people over the past few days.

I have enjoyed the things that Christmas traditionally brings during this season. We’ve gone looking at Christmas lights with the kids. I’ve sat on “Santa’s” lap. I’ve made my Grandmother’s Christmas treats and sent samples for her review. I’ve hosted a holiday party for Rocky’s playgroup. We’ve taken in a few Christmas movies (Elf, Charlie Brown, Frosty, and Rudolph). And together with my kids, I’ve even sung along to a few Christmas songs.

I have also had the wonderful fortune of celebrating Hanukkah. Me and my family attended a lovely Hanukkah party with some new friends on Friday night. We light the candles each night with our children (we have a few more days to go!). I’ve enjoyed watching the look on my kids faces as they open one gift each night. I’ve made latkes for my family (even though I swear every year that I won’t because grating potatoes without a Cuisinart is hell on earth). I went to Georgia’s preschool class and taught the dreidel game to her classmates. We’ve also read Hanukkah books and sung Hanukkah songs.

It has been a wonderful holiday.  I feel blessed to have the opportunity to have experienced so much of the best of both worlds. I am fortunate beyond measure and I am keenly aware of just how much I have, both materially and immaterially, during a time of year when the gap widens between the “haves” and the “have nots”.

One of the things that made the holidays so special to me has been receiving holiday cards in the mail from friends and family. When it is easy to feel slighted by not getting invited to the neighbor’s Christmas party, it feels good to check the mail only to receive messages of good cheer and family photos from people, some of whom I know better than others.

Receiving cards also makes me feel a little bad that for years we haven’t gotten one out. After our fourth and final child is here we hope to do one next year. But in the meantime I created a video card because I have been inspired by others who I’ve seen do the same. It gives family and friends both near and far a snapshot of what we’ve been up to in 2011.

My neighbor told me recently that as she and her family drove up our street and looked at the houses with lights, her son pointed to each house identifying each household as “believer” or “nonbeliever”. When they got to our un-lit house he said “nonbeliever” and she corrected him with “No, they just celebrate Hanukkah”. But while we do “just celebrate Hanukkah”, and don’t necessarily “believe” in the same way that they, as Christians, might do, when it comes to God and the spirit of the holidays, being called a “nonbeliever” couldn’t be farther from the truth.

In 2011, our family has reveled in growing up together. Georgia started at a new preschool. Olivia began kindergarten and turned five. Raquel has grown up a lot, and although a Mama’s girl, has the sweetest disposition. Brent has had continued success in the world of real estate finance. And I have started to get more and more balanced as a mother, wife, and teacher to my children.

I thank God daily for our good fortune and for our lives together as a family of five. I feel blessed beyond measure for the things we have and for the opportunities to continue to grow and improve together as a family. As we will soon be welcoming another daughter into our home, this feeling of gratitude reaches far beyond the accumulation of any material possession that could be bestowed upon us this holiday season.

I want to wish everyone who reads this “Merry Christmas/Happy Hanukkah/Happy Holidays!” I also wanted to send out a heartfelt “Thank you” to my devoted readers and friends. I am so touched to know that someone other than my mom reads my writing. Thanks for your comments, your love, and your support. Have a wonderful holiday celebration whatever you believe.