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Religion

From a manger to a menorah

A Safety Harbor family combines traditions, celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah on the same day for the first time.

By EILEEN SCHULTE
Published December 24, 2005


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[Times photos: Ted McLaren]
The Steingold family sits down to dinner at their Safety Harbor home recently. From left are Samuel and Sydney, both 22 months; dad Andy; Alexandria, 5; and mom Maryanne. Andy, who is Jewish, and Maryanne, a Catholic, celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah with their family. "I think modern times are such that people no longer allow religion to get in the way of love," Andy said.

  photo
Christmas cards and stockings are mixed with Hanukkah decorations in the Steingold home. "I wrapped the Christmas presents in red and green, and the Hanukkah gifts in blue," Maryanne Steingold said. In the family room are bright red poinsettias and a nativity scene. Next to the front door is a countdown to Hanukkah calendar made by 5-year old daughter, Alexandria. A candy mint marks each day leading up to the holiday.
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Christmas and Hanukkah cookies, in the shape of candy canes, Christmas trees, the Star of David and dreidels, fill a plate.

SAFETY HARBOR - A reindeer illuminated by hundreds of tiny white lights stands motionless in the front yard near the driveway. A wreath with a red bow hangs on the front door.

It looks a lot like Christmas at the Steingold home.

But the family will observe more than Christ's birth on Sunday.

Maryanne, a Roman Catholic, and Andy Steingold, a Jew, are a mixed-religion couple. This year, for the first time in their married life, they will commemorate Christmas and Hanukkah on the same day.

After gifts from Santa are opened Christmas morning, the Steingolds will attend Mass with their three children. Then, at day's end they will light the first of the menorah candles to celebrate Hanukkah.

"I wrapped the Christmas presents in red and green, and the Hanukkah gifts in blue," said Maryanne Steingold. "When I made Christmas cookies, I made Hanukkah cookies."

Andy, a personal injury attorney in Tampa and Safety Harbor city commissioner, and Maryanne, a former pharmaceutical representative, both 44, were set up on a blind date in March 1998 and were married by both a priest and a rabbi on Jan. 23, 1999, at St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Tampa.

"The first date, we hit it off," Andy said. "Sometimes when you know, you know."

The couple moved to Safety Harbor in the spring of 2000 and have three children, Alexandria, 5, and twins Sydney and Samuel, 22 months.

They said their differing religions never have been an issue in their marriage, and even find humor in it.

"The good side is, you don't have to fight about whose house you'll be (at) for the holidays," Maryanne said. "It's really worked out well for us."

In keeping with the couple's compromise, Andy has attended an Easter Mass with Maryanne and their children at Espiritu Catholic Church, where his wife worships. She has attended a Passover dinner with her husband at Temple B'nai Israel in Clearwater.

"I think modern times are such that people no longer allow religion to get in the way of love," Andy said.

As for the children's religious education, their daughters, Alexandria and Sydney, attend Sunday Mass with mom. The whole family attends the Jewish High Holiday services Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur. Andy said he and Samuel will join a temple soon.

"I strongly felt if I had a son, I would want him bar mitzvahed," Andy said.

The family's house is dressed up for both holidays. In the dining room are dozens of holiday cards, an animated Santa playing a Christmas carol on the sax and a 9-foot Christmas tree decorated with multicolored lights.

In the family room are bright red poinsettias and a nativity scene.

Next to the front door is a countdown to Hanukkah calendar made by Alexandria. A candy mint marks each day leading up to the holiday.

Eileen Schulte can be reached at 727 445-4153 or schulte@sptimes.com

[Last modified December 24, 2005, 01:26:47]


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