Elf on a Shelf and Mensch on a Bench sit side by side at Chrismukkah
Erica Mark is pictured with her husband Colin and their two-year-old son Liam in their Toronto home on Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2016. Mark grew up Jewish but that hasn't stopped her from loving everything about Christmas. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young)
Cassandra Szklarski, The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, December 15, 2016 11:07AM EST
Last Updated Friday, December 16, 2016 7:28AM EST
Erica Mark grew up Jewish but that hasn't stopped her from loving everything about Christmas.
The tinsel-loving mom happily embraces the seasonal traditions of shopping for gifts, decorating the tree and chatting about Santa with her toddler.
And she expects to do all of those things while lighting the menorah when the eight-day Jewish holiday of Hanukkah kicks off Dec. 24.
"It's easy to get swept away in the whole Christmas hoopla," says Mark, whose husband comes from a Protestant family.
"I happily got sucked into the machine."
This year's perfect calendar overlap -- in which Hanukkah will begin on Christmas Eve and end on New Year's Day -- is the epitome of what's come to be known by some as Chrismukkah.
Made famous by the defunct teen soap "The O.C.", the hybrid holiday has grown to become a full-fledged festivity in its own right, say its celebrants, who dismiss critics who fear it promotes Christian theology.
For inter-faith families, it's a genuine way to acknowledge both faiths with equal measure while teaching children about inclusivity, diversity and tolerance, says Morri Chowaiki.
"This is about tolerance, we're all one people here," says Chowaiki, a California entrepreneur who tapped into a ripe market by developing and patenting a Star of David tree-topper.
"There are so many (Jewish) people that celebrate Christmas and Easter. You tell me: What is looking for Easter eggs have to do with the resurrection of Jesus Christ? What does presents under a tree and a fat jolly man with a red hat have to do with the birth of Christ? These are holidays. These are about giving children joy and warmth."
There's certainly no shortage of Chrismukkah products to ring in blended holidays. A quick scan of online sites and retailers including Amazon, Etsy and Pinterest turns up an array of tree ornaments shaped like dreidels and menorahs, a wealth of ugly "Hanukkah sweaters," and plenty of blue-and-white candy canes, wreaths and stockings.
There's even a six-foot "Menorah Tree," a massive version of the candle-holder with pine garlands wrapped around each of its nine vertical branches.
There's no wrong way to celebrate Chrismukkah, says Toronto mom Maya Fitzpatrick, who is raising her three boys Jewish but makes sure they also experience her in-laws' Xmas celebrations.
"My kids see it as a special thing, like you're not just celebrating one, you're celebrating two," she says. "You get the best of both worlds."
Fitzpatrick, author of the parenting blog Mayahood, says they enjoy a big turkey dinner, eggnog and a gift exchange with the grandparents.
"And then with my family, we gather at home every night and we'll light the candles in our own home. Then maybe once or twice throughout the eight days we'll have a big dinner with my parents ... where it's latkes."
Her home is decked out with both an Elf on the Shelf for Christmas and a Mensch on the Bench for Hanukkah, with the busy mom noting she feels pressure to ramp up Hanukkah celebrations.
"If you ask my son he'd say he prefers Christmas, so it's really up to me to try to really make Hanukkah extra special," says Fitzpatrick, who refuses to put up a Christmas tree in her home.
If anything, Chrismukkah actually allows people to enhance their Judaism, argues Alan Masarsky, a California resident who says he came up with the "Yamaclaus" -- a mashup of a yarmulke and Santa Claus hat -- as a gift for his young nieces and nephews to help them better connect with their Jewish background.
Masarsky hopes Chrismukkah can be an antidote to divisive sentiments that seem to have flourished since the U.S. election.
"A lot of families are not your traditional families anymore," says Masarsky, whose Russian immigrant parents embraced Christmas traditions when they arrived in North America.
"It's not just about your one way of doing things."