In Spring Garden, a double domestic dose of holiday magic

Brendan and Naomi Fernald with Matthew, 17 months, on the second floor of their three-story condominium.

Naomi and Brendan Fernald feel lucky, holiday-wise: Christmas Eve coincided with the first night of Hanukkah. And the last day of the eight-day Festival of Lights also happens to be the first day of 2017.

For this couple, that meant simultaneous Christian and Jewish celebrations with their 17-month-old son, Matthew.

A joyous sense of the season already was evident during a visit to the Fernald residence in early December.

Enter the home in Philadelphia's Spring Garden neighborhood, climb a short flight of stairs, and you'll step into a grand great room, with the kitchen, dining area, and living room forming one long space.

A large window frames the family Christmas tree, while on the south side, facing City hall and the Liberty Plaza buildings, a table holds several menorahs, the traditional candelabras symbolic of Hanukkah's eight days of enduring light.

"This is the first year Matthew is really old enough to celebrate, and this year he can see the two holidays begin on the same day," Naomi, who is Jewish, told a visitor.

Brendan, a lawyer and computer programmer who is Roman Catholic, put together green-and-red decorations on the Christmas tree, whose own light glows at the front of the couple's three-story, 2,800-square-foot modern townhouse.

Virtually the entire great room of the Fernald home seems to display traditional emblems of Christmas: wreaths, poinsettias, and, of course, Christmas stockings.

Naomi, a pediatrician with a specialty in sports medicine, is expecting a second child in May. She laughed when red-haired Matthew gleefully shrieked as his father yelled, "Turn on the lights," and the automatic device Brendan developed set the Christmas lights to twinkling.

When Brendan yelled, "Turn them off," Matthew giggled as they dimmed.

Naomi and Brendan grew up very active in their religions. They met in Boston, where she went to school, and they continued professional training in Philadelphia.

"We fell in love, and you can't control who you fall in love with," she said. "We were determined to each keep our own faiths, and share them with each other."

They were married by a Roman Catholic priest and Rabbi Robyn Frisch of the Interfaith Family Organization in Northeast Philadelphia, who specializes in congregations made up of couples raised in different faiths.

In a phone interview, Frisch says there are a "growing number" of interfaith couples in the Philadelphia area.

In her group, Frisch says, these couples celebrate both holidays in a variety of ways, sometimes combining the observances, sometimes keeping each person's holiday symbols separate.

"Having the first day of Christmas and Hanukkah fall on the same day is very unusual," she said.

For Matthew's parents, it made for a great teaching opportunity.

Brendan said the couple decorated their house in late November so they could observe both holidays with Matthew despite the hectic professional schedules they have to follow.

They had a hectic travel schedule planned, as well: a late December trip to New Hampshire, where Brendan would sing on Christmas Eve in the church choir where his father is choirmaster.

At the same time, Naomi's family planned to travel from their home in Merion to a condo they own in New Hampshire, near Brendan's family home.

And on New Year's Day, a joint celebration of the last day of Hanukkah, of course.

Here in Philadelphia, the Fernald home - with its open floor plan - seems ideally suited both to holiday festivities and life with an energetic toddler.

The decor is contemporary, casual, and comfortable. Wood furnishings and floors adorned with area rugs lend warmth amid the distinctive metalwork on the staircases.

An abundance of glass in the living areas helps to keep the season - any season - bright.

"We have a window facing north, and we can see our garden," Brendan says.

In that narrow space, in warmer times, the couple will plant vegetables: cucumber, beets, squash, beans, herbs, and tomatoes.

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