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              Jessica Hendricks Yee and her son Ezra wrap holiday presents

              Make It Holiday!

              Hanukkah in Mallorca With Jessica Hendricks Yee

              When Jessica Hendricks Yee, designer of jewelry line, Zahava, and mom to 2-year old Ezra, found herself unexpectedly riding out the pandemic in Mallorca, she put a fresh spin on her family's holiday traditions–from introducing locals to latkes to foraging for eco-conscious gift wrap. This year, celebrating her second Hanukkah in Spain, she knows even though she's far from home, she's closer than ever to her Jewish roots.

              Barbara Vidal
              Interview By
              Katie Covington Crane

              On finding her way to Mallorca...

              People say when you have a baby, everything changes–you can't do whatever you want anymore. And of course, that's true in some ways, but it was the opposite for us. When my husband got a job opportunity in Madrid, we felt we had this golden time to be nomads before worrying about school for our son.

              We left Brooklyn and moved on March 1, 2020 and had two amazing weeks in Madrid before the COVID lockdown hit. We couldn't leave our apartment for over two months, we didn't know anyone, and we didn't even have a pediatrician yet. It was scary, so once things opened up, just the tiniest bit, we knew we had to get out of there. We had a friend living in Mallorca, so we went on a whim and we moved into this pink house with chickens in the backyard. It is totally wild and different from our life in New York and Madrid, but we've fallen in love with it here. 

              Yee family in a wild field in Mallorca Yee family in a wild field in Mallorca

              On living abroad with a toddler...

              It's tough because you don't have your family close by to lead the way. Especially as a first-time mom I'm figuring it out as I go along. When I see my parents my mom is so helpful at having all the answers, but at the same time, it's been a blessing because we're just so much more relaxed about things. 

              We went to the parent-teacher conference, and the whole thing was in such fast Spanish that we didn't know what they said. But then we thought, "You know what? If anything is really important, they'll relay it to us."

              As a New York mom, I remember obsessing over little things when I was pregnant, but here I've learned to trust my instincts and don't need to worry about every single benchmark. The pediatrician here is so relaxed it made me nervous initially, but now it's a nice lesson for me to carry with me.

              "I love having a little more ease in my parenting and making up our own rules."

              On creating new Hanukkah traditions...

              I had never spent the holidays away from my family before, but it was too hard to be together in 2020. I was initially disappointed that my family wouldn't get to be with my son. However, I soon realized that Ezra could have an amazing and unique holiday experience in Mallorca that would never have happened if we were still in New York. We threw a Hanukkah party for our friends who had never been to one! They'd never tried homemade latkes with applesauce, so it was meaningful for me to be able to share that.

              Yee family playing in the leaves in MallorcaYee family playing in the leaves in Mallorca

              On making a quirky childhood tradition her own...

              Growing up, we did Christmas and Hanukkah, and since my mom has a jewelry store, she was exhausted the night before Christmas. She'd be working like crazy in December, so the night before Christmas, it's become a bit of a tradition that we all wrap each other's gifts together. It's ridiculous because we're all right there, but we make sure nobody can see their gift–it's stuck as a tradition. 

              "Last year, we started this tradition of foraging for greenery from the forest all around our house to decorate our presents. It was so much fun, and the gifts turned out so beautifully, so it's definitely a tradition we will keep with us even when we leave this beautiful island one day!"
              giftwrap station with foraged materials like rosemary pinecones and fernsgiftwrap station with foraged materials like rosemary pinecones and ferns

              I got a roll of eco-friendly recycled butcher paper and we tucked all these little branches from the forest around our house in a pretty cream ribbon to make each gift feel special. You can adapt this idea to wherever you are if you look for greenery that dries well. An evergreen branch with an attached pine cone, a trimming from your Christmas tree, bittersweet berries, or eucalyptus clippings are all good options. Or use a dried material like wheat, thistle, yarrow, starflower, or canary grass. 

              Another eco-friendly way to wrap a present is to use scarves or handkerchiefs. I was inspired by the Japanese tradition of Furoshiki and found that bandanas seem to be the perfect size - you can find vintage options in so many different colors and prints. Foraging and wrapping presents together has become our Mallorca version of my mom's Christmas Eve tradition. 

              Jessica Hendricks Yee wrapping Hanukkah presents Jessica Hendricks Yee wrapping Hanukkah presents Hanukkah presents wrapped in bandanasHanukkah presents wrapped in bandanas

              On finding connection to her family's heritage...

              My son is Jewish, Chinese American and being raised in Spain. It's a lot! But we're trying to teach him a bit about the different places he's from and take a lot of pride in that. While he's immersed in Spanish culture at school, we've made more of an effort to show him what it means to be Chinese and Jewish. When you're far from your parents and home you get to set the tone for what you want your child to learn about and how to present Hanukkah or Christmas or Chinese New Year in a positive, exciting way. 

              "If we were still living in New York, I may have taken our Jewish and Chinese communities for granted, and not worked so hard to make sure my son knows about his heritage from such a young age. But in Mallorca, we do Shabbat every Friday night, we do Havdalah every Saturday night, (the end of Shabbat ritual), and I even started making dumplings and challah bread."

              My line, Zahava is all about honoring your family traditions. Our 1960s Calendar Pendant for instance, is custom made with the date and birthstone that you choose. My grandmother had given my mom a similar charm for her childhood charm bracelet, and to keep the spirit of this little heirloom alive, I recreated the pendant to honor the birth of my son.

              Yee and his sone in Mallorca Yee and his sone in Mallorca

              Jessica Hendricks Yee

              Enamored by design and travel from a young age, designer Jessica Hendricks Yee was born in Paris and grew up outside Manhattan with eyes glued to the cases in her mother’s jewelry shop. After planning her Chinese/Jewish wedding, she created Zahava to celebrate the beautiful collision of heritage with who we choose to be today–modern, multicultural families and global citizens with deep roots. She lives with her husband and young son Ezra Atlas in Mallorca.

              Jessica Hendricks Yee portrait in Sea dress and Zahava necklaces

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