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No ‘Silent Night’ for some nontraditional families

photoPhotos Courtesy/Beryl Young Brielle and her mom, Beryl, light the menorah on the third night of Hanukkah.

“First it was butter then it was sugar and white flour, bacon, eggs, bologna, rock ‘n roll, motorcycles. Then, it was celebrating Christmas on a day in September when you knew it wouldn’t be commercialized.”

This one-liner from Zooey Deschanel’s character Anita Miller in the 2000 film “Almost Famous” may have described her single mother’s unique way of raising her two children, but there are families in Loudoun County who chose to buck the system as well when it comes to expected behavior during the holidays.

From skipping the traditional big Christmas meal and unwrapping gifts around the tree to opting for honoring the winter solstice to dual religious celebrations, Loudouners have found a way to make December their own.

Renee Ventrice of Ashburn and her family use the holidays as an opportunity to experience new cultures and places.

Rather than focusing on the mad dash to get that perfect gift or spend hours writing out Christmas cards, the family of three take a step back.

“Sometimes we go away, sometimes we go local, but was always go somewhere,” Ventrice said.

Ventrice has never cooked a Christmas dinner – and has no intentions of doing so.

Why would she when there’s so many other fascinating options?

“Every year we dine at a different restaurant – Bonorati in Vienna, Charthouse in Alexandria have been favorites. This year we will stay at the Bavarian Inn in Shepardstown , W.Va. and enjoy a Bavarian dinner experience,” she said.

Other years, when the family has stayed home, they still bucked tradition when it came to the big expected dinner.

“One year we made cheeseburgers and homemade french fries,” she said.

And the gifts? Well, occasionally, but don’t expect a Ventrice family Christmas card.

“Sometimes we don’t do anything on gifts. This year we’re focusing on donations to charities …” she said.  “We’ve come to the point in our lives where we’re like ‘why buy something we don’t need when we can give something good?’”

It’s not that Ventrice doesn’t enjoy Christmas. But growing up in a military family, she learned to adjust her schedule, sometimes celebrating the holiday in June when her brothers were able to come home.

“The commercialism of it all really gets to me and growing up without a lot I never put a big focus on the gift giving of it,” she said. “I feel a lot for those people who are alone and that I’m lucky to have someone to spend the day with. We like to make it just a family day and do things unexpected and just try to keep it unexpected.”

For Lovettsville teacher and photographer Beryl Young, her family combines the traditions of Christmas and Hanukkah for their 2-year-old daughter Brielle.

“I think it’s really important that we share our beliefs with our daughter, ” Young said.  “We decided we’re going to try and blend the traditions ...”

Young is Jewish and her husband of six years Brendan is Christian.

Brielle gets the best of both worlds. At 2, she is just beginning to understand what the celebrations mean, Young said. 

“Last year we did a whole traditional brisket dinner and we got out the dreidel and lit the candles. She was just engrossed in it,” Young said. “She gets one gift for Hanukkah and opens up the other gifts for Christmas.”

photoThe Young Family shreds zucchini and potatoes to make traditional latkes (potato pancakes) for Hanukkah.

While the celebration may seem unorthodox to some, the Young family sees the blending of their religions as a blessing.

“I think in this day and age there is a lot of willingness to embrace other religions,” Young said.

The couple didn’t grow up attending church or synagogue every week, so they focus more on the time together as a family. As for which religion young Brielle will embrace, the couple will wait until she’s older and educated on both to make her own decisions, her mother said.

“We are just in the mindset that we want to instill good values and we have faith-based beliefs, but it’s not the be-all end-all,” Young said.








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