As we inch ever closer to Christmas and Hanukkah I confront the age-old problem of how to conduct religious rituals without religion.

I was raised Catholic, my husband was raised Jewish and we are both Atheists. Our daughter identifies very strongly with the Jewish side of her family and considers herself Jewish for all intents and purposes. She intermittently makes noises about a Bat Mitzvah, but that goes away as soon as she is reminded of the amount of study involved and that she would actually have to attend Temple.

She likes the ritual of the Hanukkah candles, eating latkes, and of course the eight (small) presents she gets.

She likes decorating a Christmas tree, eating the cookies and All That Music! She keeps asking where her Advent calendar is. I forgot to get one. I can usually find one for $1.99 at CVS, but didn’t see them this year. In her mind that cheap, graying chocolate from the advent calendar is part of the Christmas ritual. Maybe I’ll try Walgreens.

This morning she negotiated the date for decorating the house. I am usually very firm about only 14 days of visual chaos, but Hanukkah and Christmas overlap this year so the house will be blue & white and red & green for 19 days.

So like people all over the world, we will open presents Christmas morning, go for a movie & Chinese food, and then light the Hanukkah lights Christmas night. If folks don’t know us they might even think we were religious.