Merry Christmas Eve. Happy last night of Hanukkah. Sorry to say I have no idea when kwanzaa is/was.
I grew up in a Jewish family with our own holiday traditions: latkes, brisket, movies on Christmas day, and going out for Chinese food on Christmas eve. Perhaps even watching “The Grinch who Stole Christmas” or “A Christmas Story” on TV. A few presents, nothing lavish. No real decorations. It was easy.
Then I got married.
Luckily (the second time around), I met an amazing man with an awesome family. A Christian family. With a Christmas tree and going to church and their own traditions. I’m sure they did not expect a Jewish daughter-in-law and Jewish granddaughter. But they do everything to be welcoming and loving and to bring us into their traditions while respecting ours. Wouldn’t it be nice if more people could behave that way?
Yes, I have my daughter dress up and go to church on Christmas eve. The first year she felt very uncomfortable and told me she didn’t feel like she should be there because she was Jewish. I pointed to a statue of Jesus at the front of the church and reminded her that he had been Jewish, too. We sang along to the hymns, enjoyed the service, and went home. I explained that life is too short and we will miss way too many good things and good people if we don’t embrace other experiences. This year, she already had her dress packed for church before I even reminded her. She also lit the menorah candles and recited the blessings over the flames.
Being a parent is tough, but some days it seems like I learn more by teaching her than I ever would have figured out on my own. Traditions are important to pass down and share. Life is meant to be celebrated in many ways.
Right now, she is 13 years old and doesn’t know what she believes in. I encourage her to explore and figure it out; there is no one right belief system. We talk about being a good person, behaving kindly to others, and doing the right thing. Culturally, she embraces the Jewish traditions but isn’t sure if she believes in God. That’s ok with me. I would rather she explore and decide this on her own and be comortable in her own skin instead of being forced into a blind faith. Questioning life, the universe, and our place in it is a lifelong path. Luckily, there are presents, joy, family, and celebrations throughout the years to enjoy.