What This Jew Thinks About Celebrating Christmas

“How’re you doing celebrating Christmas?” A dear friend asked.

We faced each other across my kitchen counter.

His tall frame slicing the early evening light, his strong voice filling the space, the years, the differences between us.

Last year, our Jewish family started celebrating Christmas. We planted our feet in the sweet spot where traditions are made, and explanations are limited.

And I soaked these gems in for a whole year until I arrived right here, at my kitchen counter, leaning against the hard wood, reaching across warm pizza, trying to answer how I feel about adding Christmas into my (very) Jewish life.

The short answer, the easy one, is that I’m fine.

And the long one, is this.

There’s a thought, a common one, that children need answers and right-nows and clearly-stateds in order to maneuver through this tricky, complicated world with as little confusion as possible.

Jason and I -when we were young and childless and thought we knew more than anyone, really- believed this with our hearts and our souls and our cores.

So much so, that at 23 years old, Jason converted from (non practicing) Catholic to (very much practicing, but by my side) Judaism.

Just a few months before our wedding, we squished onto a small couch, poured into a tiny home, bookended by two rabbis and a clergy member.

They qustioned him and he questioned back and they liked him for it, so he was sure, and I was too, that this was RIGHT (in uppercase letters) for us, and for our unborn children.

And it was.

Jason converted for a love of Jewish food and tradition and food and culture and food and holidays and food and (mostly) me (and then food again).

And while our children were very small, this remained our very RIGHT.

But as our children grew, so did Jason’s discomfort.

Right now, some of you might be itching to tell me that he shouldn’t have converted or too bad or think of the children or buck up or what’s done is done or that religiously, we can’t -and shouldn’t– have it both ways.

And to you, I mostly want to say hush.

And listen.

Because what he missed when he looked into our children’s brown eyes that are mixed and blended and smudged until they’re each their own shade of his cocoa and my hazel, wasn’t religion.

It wasn’t.

It wasn’t the kneeling and the knowing and the Sunday morning services.

What he missed, was the passing of memories from his youth to theirs.

Decorating trees with his siblings, picking new ornaments with his father, baking the most delicious of cookies with his mother.

And I can hardly think of anything more RIGHT than wanting their story, to (also) start with his.

Some of you say that Jason and I are confusing our children, being wishy washy, not making a decision nor passing down a straight forward and easy to digest path.

And you should know that we both think you’re totally and completely, unwaveringly, right.

But we’re okay with that.

Here’s why.

Because what we are passing down from our hearts to theirs, is that everybody has a story to tell, that everybody’s story matters, and that RIGHT can change.

That really knowing someone means understanding where they came from, and really loving someone means hushing and listening while they tell their story.

Last night my family edged that same kitchen counter, meats and cheeses and the finest of scotch and egg nog and Shirley Temples between us.

Music played and the fireplace burned and we were warm and cozy and together, celebrating Christmas in our Jewish home.

What was your favorite present? Did you get to have a tree in your room? What was the best part of Christmas Eve?

Our children questioned Jason like he questioned the rabbis ten years ago.

And he gave his answers the same care and thought that the rabbis gave his questions the night he converted, sitting in that small room, hair still wet from the mikveh.

He was letting them into his story, where they belong.

“Em, Tim, Derek, and I used to sleep together Christmas Eve.” He started.

“Like we are!” They finished.

And there it was right before my eyes, the passing of a story, a tradition, a way from one generation to the next.

Even though this way is new to me, once we married -because it’s his- it became mine as well.

I wouldn’t have it any other way.

My old friend is the only person who’s asked me how I feel celebrating Christmas.

But many, many people have asked me, not unkindly, “So what’s winning? Hanukkah or Christmas?”

And the only answer I have to give (for right now), is that’s not how we’re choosing to play.

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Comments

  1. What your children are learning in a straightforward, easy to digest path with no ambiguities is this: You will accept their choices, you will honor each member of your family. You will hush and listen when something matters to them. And that is more important than having all the answers about religion. Which none of us really do, anyway.

  2. LIfe is wishy-washy and mixed and when we celebrate this instead of staying so very black and white, this or that, we are giving our children the greatest gift of all. Merry Hanukkah and Happy Christmas to you and your family.

  3. you are teaching that there is grey. I like that.

    Happy everything to you. Your heart is gorgeous :)

  4. My family is Catholic, but I’m not, I was never baptized and have no interest in belonging to a church. To me Christmas is about so much more than religion, because I never had the religious part of it in my life, it’s my history, my family’s tradition, and those are things I want to pass down to my children. Like thanksgiving, even though my husband is Italian and I live in Italy. I think you’re doing a wonderful thing, children need as much magic as possible in their lives and no one has to “win”.

  5. Sigh. This is perfectly right. And if everyone would pipe down and see a little more of the in-between stuff, wouldn’t this be a more wonderful world. So glad you are making your own tracks in the snow! All of you.

  6. Happy BEAUTIFUL Everything!!!

  7. I appreciate this post so much. Although my husband (who converted from non-practicing Christian to practicing Jew) and I ONLY celebrate Jewish holidays with our boys and I am typically among the “you’re confusing your kids” group of people (especially because I taught 2nd grade religious school for 14 years and saw lots of confusion every December), I truly appreciate this explanation: it makes sense. Had my husband ever felt like something was missing, I definitely would have been open to figuring out how to fix that. I’m glad that you did what’s right for your family! :)

  8. Sometimes RIGHT unfolds in different ways, doesn’t it? We celebrate Christmas even though neither my partner nor I are Christians. We celebrate the culture and spirit of the holiday that we both grew up with so this makes perfect sense to me. Happy everything to you and your beautiful family.

  9. I am pretty sure I love you even more now 😉
    Good for you, for doing what feel right – the world would be a better place if more people did that.
    Having children and watching them grow up is about traditions and feeling safe and being happy. There is nothing wrong with making your own traditions.
    One of the reasons why we are not practicing Catholics anymore is that religion always seems to come in the way of belief.
    There is just never only one way – and bravo to you and Jason for choosing the one that’s right for you.

  10. Traditions, stories, rites of passage – those are our gifts to our children, whatever religion we are. They weave a part of us, and so we pass it on to our children. Because what is our future if not a little of our past? I think you’re doing it just right. With love and understanding. xo

  11. Why would you be nervous to post this? There is so much of what God is in this post, and in your life….LOVE! Your honesty with your children, your tradition, your beliefs…all so important to them. You are teaching them the tradition and beliefs of His chosen people, alongside some traditions we have added on to the celebration that occurs in December.
    It’s all good….and you remain at the very top of my list of pretty phenomenal people!
    From a friend who just happens to be living a (very) Christian life…and loves you dearly!

  12. I think this is lovely. The best parts of each of your traditions are being given to your children. What an amazing gift. We aren’t religious although I was raised Christian, so we don’t do a lot of religion around the holiday. We tell the story of Christ’s birth and of winter solstice and of Hanukkah and of Kwanzaa. Our children will believe what they believe as adults, and they’ll have their memories of ornaments, cookies, trees, and lights.

  13. I have loved many of your posts but this is my absolute favorite. Yes, right can change. Your last line answering what is winning is perfect as was your card.

    This is gold: “What he missed, was the passing of memories from his youth to theirs.”

    I get that.

    Bravo on this one Galit.

  14. Gorgeous. There’s no way to get it “wrong” with so much love involved.

  15. Beautiful stories, beautifully written and beautifully lived in your gorgeous family. I love that you are doing this. I think it’s brave and I know it must be challenging on some level. I know that some of my family thinks it is totally bizarre that my family talks about, reads about, and shares in parts of the traditions of Hanukkah and Passover each year. However, we are a family with Jewish roots on both sides. While we aren’t practicing the Jewish faith, it is part of our story and I want my children to know and be proud of that amazing, strong and lovely heritage. Our funny mix of race and ability all shaped perfectly by God Himself (if not-so-much biology) into one happy family under a too-small roof is only improved by our love of diversity. If I do nothing else with these beautiful little humans I am raising, I will teach them to love people–all people–with gentleness and respect. I believe with my whole heart you are doing the same. You are doing just fine. No matter how fine you are, someone will think you’re wrong. So, be who you are and love it and love them, and it will all be perfection!

  16. Written so well and done so right, I love that you embraced tradition.
    I have a close friend who is Christian and her husband Jewish. Together the celebrate both Hanukkah and Christmas and their girls are learning each parent’s story and traditions.
    Wonderful.

  17. Love it! We have a crazy mix of Jewish and Christian celebrations in our house (I am a former Catholic, my wife was raised Presbyterian, but is the grandchild of Holocaust-survivor Jewish grandparents who raised their kids Southern Baptist!). We are both now members of a Unitarian Universalist congregation, which fits us well with our hodge-podge of religious beliefs. I think what you’re doing is beautiful :)

  18. This is beautiful. I love what you’re teaching your children. Thank you for sharing!

  19. This is so beautiful, Galit. I know it was a hard thing to put this out into the universe for all of our collective judgment and criticism, but the world is better for it. There is no right or wrong answer, and everyone’s cherished traditions deserve to live in the light. Thanks for sharing. So much love to you.

  20. oh, i dance in this gray. in this in-between because I find the pulse of life *right here*. The passing down of tradition and of stories is so much more important than passing down stringent rights and wrongs. you guys are doing what is best for your family because you *are* your family. My son declared just the other day that he wants to celebrate kwanzaa next year. Let’s do it! I replied. We don’t have to be singular in focus that we block out all other light. And this, darlin’ is just beaming of light and love.

  21. We celebrated several Jewish holidays in my LDS home growing up. I loved doing it. I still find comfort in a bowl of matzo ball soup. While I am not Jewish, I do feel that so much of my heritage has its roots in Judaism that it is very important to embrace it. We have started teaching our children these traditions as well, slowly, but we want to expand it soon.

    It would be a narrow frame of mind to forget that Christianity came from Judaism. Christ, after all, was Jewish. The miracles of the Old Testament are part of my beliefs, as much as the ones in the New Testament.

    What a beautiful thing to teach your children love and respect and how to embrace two cultures without competition as to which is ‘better.’ I think that if we were to all embrace and celebrate good things, no matter their religious origin, we would be a force for good in this world.

  22. This was so great. Loved reading it. My husband and I are not religious, but we celebrate Christmas and Santa and over the years have passed on the many traditions that are so happy and special to us onto our own children. We pride in any opportunity to be good and do good every day of our lives, and to teach our children the same, but especially so during a time when so many receive so much – them included – while others don’t, and making those teaching moments and lessons for them to remember and pass on. Happy Everything to you as well…because living for a happy everything, no matter what the season, is what life is all about.

  23. Oh, Galit! This is just beautiful. And though no one’s opinions matter, I truly think that what you’re doing is absolutely what’s best for your family and that’s truly the ONLY thing that matters. I love your openness on all things that are life and your belief that nothing’s ever really black or white. Your heart is true and I am so greatful to have found your corner of the blogosphere. Thanks for sharing your heart! Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, wonderful whatever beautiful traditions your family’s making!

  24. I love that I just read this on the very day I got your card. And I love you and the way you have decided to play. It’s wonderful to honor both of you traditions and memories. xoxo

  25. Liz @ PeaceLoveGuac says:

    This is wonderful. Happy Everything, indeed!

  26. Hi.
    I was raised Catholic. My husband was brought up as a non practicing Jew. This year we did both Hanukkah and Christmas. It was the first year for Hanukkah. I am not sure how it is all going to turn out, but I like the idea of our kids knowing where we come from. I love your post. The memory making of Christmas is so important to me. I have so many memories woven from my own childhood, traditions that I want to pass onto my own children. Happy New Year.

  27. As always you’ve captured the meaning of humanity perfectly.
    We are here together. Lets build each other up, let’s learn from one another.
    I’m so grateful we have people like you among us.

  28. I love this… passing on the stories… letting your kids know where they come from… all the roots…
    It’s just so beautiful Galit. SO BEAUTIFUL. And teaching your children to value each person’s history… is just so lovely.
    Happy Everything!

  29. This is so lovely, Galit. I think one of the best and most important things we can give our children is the freedom to explore what they believe.

    I have no religion, but I consider myself spiritual and to have faith. I really strongly believe that, while to say, “This is what is right and true” is fine, it is more freeing and empowering and strength-building to say, “This is what I believe is right and true and some people believe something different and you should explore what you believe and whatever that turns out to be is okay.”

    So…yes. Lovely.

  30. I think it’s beautiful :-)

  31. You’re going to burn in hell for this. Stealing the good parts from other religions is not what God intended. What next, killing people to sleep with 42 virgins like the Muslims?

    • “Stealing the good parts from other religions” – really? What she’s talking about is resuming traditions within her family, and particularly because her husband grew up with them. (But so what if an entirely Jewish family wanted to partake in some Christmas traditions?)

      If she’s going to hell for this, I’ll gladly sing Christmas carols with her there.

      • If she’s going to hell for this? I can’t begin to imagine all of the thing I’LL to to hell for. And yeah, I’ll be hanging out with Robin and Galit there. We can be a cool trifecta in hell.

    • Ian,

      That’s a really interesting point. I like how you draw the parallel between embracing cultural traditions which espouse love, warmth, light and compassion to “killing people to sleep with 42 Virgins like the Muslims.” Your point really is strengthened by your obvious knowledge of Islam (deep brother, way deep) and your knowledge of what “God” wants. Love like you yours shines like Jesus’s.

      BTW – I don’t think you go to heaven by just being Christian, even based on what most Christians believe. You have to be “nice” too. You are supposed to model the love and compassion that Christ did throughout his life.

      Now. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t agree with you about Heaven. In fact, I think it’s fairly self-absorbed for one to believe that their religion is the “only” way. People are born into religion like culture – I was not born into a Christian family, so I am not converting anytime soon. Are you saying children in remote villages of the world who have never even been exposed to a photo of Christ, much less the idea of Heaven should be punished? Did their birth pre-determine that? Lots of questions to ask. It sounds like you have done a wealth of pondering yourself. Am I right?

      A life without examination is a fairly shallow one. I like most Christians, really I do. My husband is Catholic and I love my extended family. Most of my friends are Christian, as well.

      But it’s times like this that I truly understand what Mahatma Gandhi meant when he said the following.

      “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

      NOTE: I think he may have been talking about people like yourself again. Not all Christians. Gandhi was cool with them for the most part. You know, being one of the closest models of true Christ-like behavior.

      It’s so sad when people don’t question humanity and what their religion teaches when they can so easily say something like “Go to Hell!” Or “You are going to hell for this!” I’ll give you an example. I am new to Galit’s blog, but it is clear that she is a kind, loving soul. That you would come here and say “You are going to hell” says a lot about you. I do not like “your” version of Christianity.

      So I leave you with this quote. Another favorite of mine by my favorite, rockin’ Hindu, Gandhi. It has inspired me throughout life to respect all religions, all people, all faiths and to live a life of morality and humanity. Wait a minute. I just said “all people” but that’s not true.

      I don’t respect assholes. I don’t care what religion they are.

      “As soon as we lose the moral basis, we cease to be religious. There is no such thing as religion over-riding morality. Man, for instance, cannot be untruthful, cruel or incontinent and claim to have God on his side.” – Gandhi

      Peace out.

    • Christmas is the best part of Christianity? That is YOUR religion?

      Your comment about Muslims is offensive. You have a right to your opinion, even idiocy, but to openly acknowledge your ignorance and bigotry on this beautiful space, is worse.

      Mr. Port, I suggest you go brush up on the other faiths before you spew your hatred.

  32. I’ve never believed God cares nearly as much about how we worship him as we seem to.

  33. Oh Galit – this is all so perfect and full of love – and that’s what it’s about. xoxo

  34. Oh. Oh Galit.. This is brilliant and inspiring and is making me cry. With hope and love and understanding.

    Did I ever tell you how much I wanted to be Jewish when I was little (and still daydream about it now?) So I get this. I am the queen of when asked… ‘this or that’.. I say BOTH. even my favorite ice cream is the’ twist’. A little of both.

    I love how you said.. ‘that’s not how we choose to play’. Again. Brilliant!

    And as Harry tells Charlotte as she decorates their last Christmas tree.. Jesus was a Jew… And he was.. He didn’t start Christianity.. He was the namesake of it..

    Personally I LOVE that you have decided to celebrate Both.. Too much tradition.. Too much joy… Too much family, memories or community… I think not.

    Love u!!!

  35. This made me cry – so beautiful. You summed up perfectly why we celebrate Christmas in our Jewish home as well.

  36. Just beautiful, Galit. For me, wherever memories and traditions and sharing and togetherness are involved with family, that is the good stuff. The world could use more sharing of stories and understanding – and where better to begin than at home?

  37. Amen. This is beautiful, and I think that living in the place of lots of memories and few explanations is your right and your privilege. If it’s right for you and your family, it can’t be wrong. xoxo

  38. Yes Galit! More power to you for doing what’s best for your family. Life is full of gray areas and compromises, especially in parenting. Your children look so happy. Good job Mama :-)

  39. I really don’t understand why people would even care? I have plenty of friends where one parent is Jewish and the other isn’t and they celebrate both holidays…and even though personally, for me, Christmas is about celebrating the day Jesus was born, who am I to tell others that it’s only to be celebrated for that reason?Because in my house, not only do we celebrate Jesus, we also celebrate memories and family at the same time…
    Keep doing what you do

  40. But why can’t you have it “both ways?” I consider your children fortunate. That passing of stories and childhood memories, the learning of truths and whys and hows and maybes and blurred lines of shoulds/supposed tos/can’ts/dont’s — it’s what they deserve. YOU will teach them what you know and they will learn and grow and make their own decision and no matter what choice they make (could be wholly different from both you and your husband, oooooooh), it will have been forged with love and memories and a basic education by their parents. I consider them lucky.

  41. I think this is neat and forget whoever has criticism for how YOU want to raise your family. I think a lot of Christmas is about tradition and not the spiritual aspects–I say this as a christian for whom the spiritual aspects mean the most. But so many parts of Christmas that I love are about my childhood memories and not about the spiritual part. We teach the spiritual part, but we talk about and embrace memories and traditions that may have little to nothing to do with those. And we love it. Our kids aren’t confused. It’s life.

  42. Galit, as you know we also celebrate both holidays and I can’t imagine not passing on my memories to my kids. Without hymns, for example, it would be hard for me to show my kids what is in my heart around the holidays. Those songs are a part of my life and my soul. If we weren’t teaching them about different beliefs, they might not understand me as well. While I know we will have difficult moments, and already have had some, I have never regretted sharing both of our faiths with our children. Thank you for sharing your journey to this point and emphasizing that what should be winning is love, not one faith and tradition over another. Much love, dear friend.

  43. Amen.

    I have nothing to add.

    Love you and yours.

  44. I don’t believe you and Jason are wishy-washy or confusing your children. Children deserve far more credit than some give. You guys are teaching your children about family, diversity, LOVE, and ACCEPTANCE. It’s a beautiful thing to raise children with such openness. High fivers to you both. Love you, girl!

  45. This is so amazingly beautiful and everything that life should be about. Making our own stories. No one else has any rights to them and it is none of their business what yours includes. The bigger gift that you are giving your kids is not just celebrating another holiday, it’s the gifts of tolerance and love and those are two gifts that will serve them well.

  46. I love this!
    I don’t know that there is a “straight forward and easy to digest path” out there. All the paths look quite bumpy and curvy to me, but I’m one of those who thinks that straight and easy are overrated.
    I also think people underestimate kids and their ability to understand more than one way.
    Happy Everything to you and your family!

  47. Very nice story, but I disagree with in the confusion part. Greg is not Jewish, but we are a Jewish family in every sense. The only time you would not know Greg wasn’t Jewish is the month of December. We decorate the house, we put up the tree, we listen to Christmas music in the car for 30 days all for Greg. Greg supports our Jewish life and is very active in our Temple band. How better to thank him than to let him celebrate the joyous time of Christmas. Our girls understand that they are Jewish and the Christmas is dad’s holiday; that they get presents because that is what dad and I decided. They know that it is not “their” religious holiday, but they love and support their dad and everything he does for them and “their” Jewish life.

  48. When you headed down this road last year – I shared and shared because I have friends who sit on this fence and allow it to be a barrier btw their future and their happiness. What you are doing is a great , happy, joy filled gift for your children, for your family, for you and your man – building your traditions and your memories that will continue thro your children to their children. This openness and acceptance is not just for the holidays- but shows them the road to acceptance in all things in life, even on different paths.
    We can join people on their journey, because at the end of the day, our destination is the same.
    Love you dear friend – you speak always to my heart.

  49. I don’t understand why anyone would ask you or question you. Much of religion is about culture and tradition and not necessarily the actual worship. Passing down those traditions is one of the best part of family. What you do with your own family is your business and you owe no one explanations.

  50. What a beautiful compromise you have reached! I am a dyed in the wool Christian, but Jesus was a Jew and I think it is great for Christians to learn about Jewish traditions and belief. I confess, I never really thought about it the other way around, but making memories is so important and children want more than anything to connect with a parent’s childhood. :)

  51. Oh how I love this. I wish I could be a part of your family. I love and agree with everything you’ve said here, truly. And I LOVE your recognition of how RIGHT changes.
    Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah. xo

  52. You are passing down family traditions and that is a beautiful mitzvah to your children and you.
    Happy New Year

  53. Life isn’t so black and white, it’s shades of grey and it’s messy and neat, it’s complicated and it is also filled with so much clarity. I think you and your husband are doing the exact right thing for YOUR family!! No one has a right to tell you any differently. Exposure to it all is what I truly believe is the best for our children. Thank you for writing this and explaining your viewpoint. Always do what is in your heart and what is best for YOUR family and you can never go wrong. EVER!

    Much much love to you all!

    Happy EVERYTHING, indeed!
    xoxo

  54. I love this. In so many ways and on so many levels. I LOVE this.

  55. This is lovely. Holidays don’t necessarily have to be about religion. I’m not a Christian and I celebrate Christmas – for the tradition, the family, the fun!

  56. Galit – this is beautiful. Life is wishy-washy. I was raised Catholic but went to preschool at the JCC. Go figure. I wasn’t confused but just learned that there were lots of different ways to do things.

    This has been very much on my mind lately – holidays and creating traditions and sharing stories, how WE as parents are the memory creators and story tellers for our kids. It’s also been in my mind in terms of the different cultural/ethnic backgrounds my husband and I bring into our family (Polish and Chinese) and how to ensure that both stories are told and passed down to our kids. But ultimately, it comes down to family and how each of our families create our own stories.

  57. I loved the last line. 😉

    To be honest, in our very Christian household (grin), Christmas is more about traditions and joy and fun than it is about religion. Although I think religious ceremony is good, it’s in the everyday-ness that we celebrate our spirituality. Your decision to celebrate both seems very logical to me. There’s always a good reason to add another celebration, especially for those young hearts around us!

  58. What great insight – and much needed insight – for this mom of kids who were born to 1 Jew and 1 Catholic. And how true that any holiday celebrated can be about sharing memories and passing on traditions – and honoring where we came from.

  59. This was really beautiful. It is so important to tell both parents’ stories, and you are truly doing that. Your family sounds very blessed. What a wonderful gift you are giving your children. (And speaking of gift – your writing is truly beautiful.)

    Happy New Year!

  60. I Love love LOVE this post! I am and have been raised in a Christian family, but one year I spent some time living in Paris and became very close friends with L, who is Jewish. She grew up in a split religious family and was Jewish but also celebrated Christmas. She taught me so very much about all the “grey matter” in life. I learned the importance of the “story” of each person, just as you are teaching your children. I also learned to open my heart and mind to people who do things differently, who believe differently, who are Jewish and celebrate Christmas! :-) This post reminded me so much of my Jewish Christmas in Paris in 1999. And I have to say it speaks so much to your character that you are able to give this to your children.

  61. I love ‘happy everything’! Christmas and Hanukkah are a time to celebrate. You’re choosing to celebrate your faith, your traditions, your family…on and on it goes. Isn’t it wonderful that you can? I don’t think it’s about shades of gray or being wishy-washy. I see what you’re doing as colorful and full of life. It’s beautiful.

  62. I meant to comment on this before, but I’ve been a little crazed.

    I love this. I want to try it, too, but it scares me. Why? I don’t quite know. I don’t want them to prefer Christmas. I want them to WANT Hanukkah. That sounds awful. I am awful. I don’t know. It’s a tough thing.

    I hate myself for feeling this way, conflicted and pulled and torn.

    • Oh, Erin. I’m sorry you feel scared about this, but I can understand why. I will say this while acknowledging that I don’t know nearly as much about Hanukkah as I should: if it’s meaningful to you it will probably be meaningful to them. There are lots of great things about Christmas but I think the sentiment of love and gratitude and family is what makes people feel its magic. And those things aren’t exclusive to Christmas. :)

    • Oh Erin, you’re so very far from awful.

      You’re thoughtful and analytical and real and so, so very loved.

      Talk to your guy, decide together if you want to try it. And I promise -I do- that your kids will love whatever it is you create.

      {I believe in you!}

      xo

    • I don’t think it’s awful at all that you want them to want Hanukkah, Erin. That’s your heritage and beliefs! Christmas is so completely overwhelming commercially, I’ve often wondered how families of other faiths dealt with the fact that there was this huge THING going on out there with the lights and the shopping and the craziness — this THING that they didn’t take part in.

  63. I write this with the utmost respect for your family, your traditions, and your mad writing skills, but I read not one line reflecting on true Christian tradition. Nor do I see it included in any of your pictures. Are you celebrating the advent of the birth of Christ into your heart or the genesis of a secular holiday into your home? Just wondering. Beautiful story. I’m glad I read it, and I will remember this blog because of it.

    • Hi Sandra!

      Thank you so much for your note – I so appreciate it!

      We’re definitely talking about the secular parts of Christmas for our family. I love that you brought that up, and pointed it out.

      It’s so very nice to “meet” you. :)

    • Sandra,

      It’s really interesting that you bring that up. I am Hindu and married to a Catholic (by birth, probably not the most devout though – either of us). Many families who are not Christian celebrate the customs of Christmas (the secular ones) because it’s so pervasive in our culture in the United States (and any predominantly Christian country). When I was a child, I remember feeling very isolated and alone at Christmas – we did not have the joy and warmth in our house during the holidays and as a mother, I want to make sure my kids understand the beauty of giving and embracing love at this time of year.

      They are taught Christmas songs and Channukah songs at school. Never mind that 50% of her private school class is Indian – and I fully expect that. For many non-Christians, embracing Christmas is something we do

      a) because its the only time of the year that most of the family gets off from work (we don’t have that during our Hindu holidays)
      b) I can’t blindfold my children during the months of November – December. They will want to know why Santa didn’t remember them. Weren’t they good?
      c) It’s a time where you can help so many families in need and perpetuate the spirit of giving
      d) I love giving gifts. That’s a selfish reason, but I have to admit that one 😉

      I do explain the origins of Christmas to them but we are not a religious family by any means. We do embrace the cultural aspects of Christmas, however, as do many Christians who are not very religious at all.

      I hope that gives another glimpse into what might drive secular and cultural decisions to “celebrate” the holiday.

      Merry Belated Christmas and Happy New Year!
      Kiran

  64. Galit, what I love about this venture you are taking is that you are doing what feels right for you and your family. I’m a huge sucker for tradition, so I can see how much this would mean to your husband. And I know that if it ever starts to feel not as right, you’ll talk to your husband and children about it and go from there.

  65. Innocently beautiful, for the beautifully innocent.

    Let them enjoy world peace, before they get out in to this world on their own.

  66. The people who say you are confusing your kids are idiots. OF course you aren’t. You are celebrating a holiday that is really quite secular. It isn’t even properly Jesus’s birthdate. It was just a handy pagan celebration the Christians took hold of. There is NO REASON for the kids not to enjoy Jason’s memories by creating wonderful family traditions. It’s not like you’ve forsaken anything. Hope yours was grand.

  67. I know I’m so, so behind in commenting, and I’m not even going to read the other comments, but I wanted you to know this, my opinion… for what it’s worth.

    As a life long Christian, with a sold and strong faith in Christ (not in RELIGION), I think what you guys are doing is wonderful. You are teaching your children about your faith, passing down traditions, and at the same time, giving them permission to be themselves. I know, as parents, we have this war between wanting our kids to be like us and stand by our beliefs, while at the same time wanting them to blaze their own trail. By blending these two and answering questions, you guys are teaching them that it is okay to change and grow and be different or to change and grow and be the same. I think that is pretty amazing.

  68. This post speaks volumes to me, as many of your words do. On a much smaller scale, I feel the same way about snow and winter. My California baby will never have the same childhood memories that I have from this time of year, like the spontaneous sledding before breakfast that your children know. I love how you’re adopting your own truth and passing on pieces of yourselves to your children. I don’t believe you’re confusing them at all. They are going to have amazing memories to pass on to their own children someday. Beautiful!

  69. Oh Galit, I am coming to this post so late. This is one of the most beautiful and important posts I have read, and you speak to me too, even though I was not raised on any religion, but I am now raising a tricultural child in an intercultural marriage with a Christian husband. You speak to all families (and there are so many of us these days!!) who have had to find a way to combine their memories and traditions and beliefs and faiths to pass on to their children. You are not wishy washy but showing your children openness and acceptance and the abundance of faith and love that can be had by learning from two religions. Lucky them!

    This past December our Jewish/Chinese friends invited us to their home to celebrate Hanukkah. It was our little tricultural and at the moment agnostic little boy who, before the lighting of the Menorah, told the story of Hanukkah. As far as he is concerned Hanukkah and Christmas belong to all of us. I appreciated so much our friends’ inclusion of our family into their family’s traditions.

    I’m so happy to know that you and your husband have found a way to pass these important memories on to your own children. I hope you had a wonderful holiday!

  70. I love this post so much! For some reason it made me teary eyed. I’m Jewish and my husband is a Bahai. OUr pre-children idea was that we’d raise them culturally Jewish and spiritually bahai. I’m still not sure how that’s shaping up, and we often get accused of “confusing the children.” I love love love your response to that. I wish I had the chutzpah to say “hush and listen”to my family with their strong opinions. Maybe I”ll just refer them to this post. It’s hard to argue with a parent’s desire to have their children be a part of their cultural lineage. Thanks for this!

  71. Galit, you are doing it all just right. I was actually brought up in a secular home with loads of Christmas traditions, and I married a man who rejected his Catholicism in his early twenties. We celebrate a thoroughly secular Christmas at our house (we’ve even got some Festivus going on in our own way ;)). It’s a pastiche of light and family and music and food (it’s all about the food!)and I don’t feel at all conflicted about talking about the Christian traditions we draw from (and the older celebrations they borrowed) and how for us it’s a little different, but no less magical. I also nannied for a blended family for ten years, and helped them navigate the holidays. Those kids did it all, though they are growing up Jewish in terms of identity and practice, and they loved it. More family, more love, more tradition, more light and gratitude and memories are always the best way to live.

  72. I adore this post for many reasons. I’m Catholic and once dated a very nice Jewish boy. We never got super serious and the religion thing was something we danced around. Neither one was willing to go there (or in all honestly, probably, convert if we had gotten married). But I always wondered how it would be handled if we had. I have a friend who was Catholic and married a Jew and she willingly converted. She loved everything about the Jewish religion. And they had an understanding that there would always be a Christmas tree. BTW -my kids all sleep together on Christmas Eve, too. And swear they will into adulthood:). Their poor future spouses. Honestly Galit, I got chills and a little teary reading this. I love your attitude – all of it. Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas!

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