November 10, 2011 12:00 PM

As a kid celebrating Hanukkah in suburban Minneapolis, “my biggest memory is singing the prayer over the candles with my family,” says Harris, 37. “To me that was so beautiful.” She is now sharing that joy with her daughters Josselyn, 4, and Hillary, 11 months. “What’s fun is that Jossie [who attends a Jewish preschool] is singing the Hebrew words and learning all the Hanukkah songs,” says Harris, who also started a new tradition last year. “I got cookie cutters in the shape of a dreidel, menorah and Star of David. Then we use a paintbrush with the food coloring, and Jossie can paint them any color she wants.” But husband Michael Hess, a financial wholesaler, clamored for a chance to introduce his kids to Santa because, although he was raised by Jewish parents, he grew up looking forward to a Christmas that included “Mr. and Mrs. Claus, a tree—the whole thing!” So Harris has slowly made some concessions. “It took a lot of prodding, but I realized that this is about making our own family traditions,” says Harris, who now hangs leopard-trimmed stockings and garland in their L.A. home and leaves cookies out for Santa but stops short of buying a Christmas tree. “We are trying to find the perfect balance,” says Harris. “Jossie and Hillary will appreciate the best of both holidays.”

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