My parents always told me to marry a nice Jewish man, so I’m sure you can imagine the oy-ness at my Greek Orthodox wedding topped with stepping on the glass and Hava Nageela.
After enduring a personal disconnect with Judaism for a number of years, marrying for religion didn’t really top my list. It hasn’t been until having kids that I’ve realized the importance of instilling in my children the tradition of their diverse background – both from me and my husband.
My kids go to Jewish preschool and attend church on Christmas, and despite what some may think, I consider it a beautiful mix of culture.
Sure, I have Jew guilt. To this day, walking into a church is hard – but I’m sure it’s no harder than my husband hearing the kids recite Jewish blessings. So instead of considering it a lose-lose; in my book, it’s a win-win… and here’s why.
My husband and I consider ourselves spiritually religious. Instead of preaching one thing or another, we teach our kids to unite over divide, and the similar values Judaism and Christianity share. We teach them that there’s a higher power; something very special we cannot see that looks after them. We teach them that their deceased loved ones are angels- invisible halos that keep them safe. We teach them the importance of family; that they’ll never find a greater friendship deeper than the love they share as brothers. We teach them to be good people; to be kind, inclusive, compassionate, caring young men. We teach them tradition; that the holiday season is a feeling of warmth- and that Santa loves all children (that’s what my Jewish parents once told me).
Growing up, I always wanted a Christmas tree, and like most Jewish kids, I had immense Christmas envy. Sure, my parents made a big deal out of Hanukkah, but that didn’t come close to the social attention to Christmas in every storefront. In fact, I remember sleeping on the couch alongside cookies and milk hoping Santa wouldn’t forget me… and go figure, he never did.
With all that being said, some things my parents have told me, I’ve come to find, are very true. (And I can’t believe I’m admitting that publicly.) That religion is part of your soul and stays with you even when you digress. And so, I still somewhat struggle with finding a balance between our mixed and maybe confusing way we’re doing things. But truth be told, we’re figuring it out as we go, and somehow- it’s working.
To me, the holiday season isn’t about religion. It’s about matching pajamas and lighting menorahs with a decorative Christmas tree in the background. It’s about Christmas music, Christmas movies, visiting Santa, and spinning the dreidel. It’s about opening presents- maybe too many- considering we celebrate eight crazy nights and the joy of Christmas morning. It’s about doing something good- we always deliver gifts to our local hospital. It’s about discussing the story of Hanukkah- that miracles happen; and attending church on Christmas. It’s about surrounding ourselves with family- a beautiful kind of dysfunction (but whose isn’t?). And it’s about believing; believing in the magic of the season, because it truly is the most wonderful time of the year.
So if you're anything like me, juggling holidays and striving to find meaning, remember this: you're not alone. As parents, we're all doing the best we can to pave "the right path" for our children. Well, I've come to realize our path takes a lot of turns- but that is what makes it special, interesting, and sacred.
From our family to yours, merry everything. May Santa bring you everything on your list, and may you win the jackpot at dreidel.