Growing up in an interfaith family, we celebrated. A lot. Always with lots of family, food and gifts, festiveness abounding. Now, as I enter into my second holiday season as a mom and with my own interfaith family, the questions have started to bubble up. What do I want my daughter to know about being Jewish, as that is how we are raising her, and how much of those “other” traditions do we want to incorporate?
This year, Hanukkah and Christmas are on the same day, meaning we will be celebrating both at the same time and across states as we travel to see our extended family. It means packing menorahs and stockings, dreidels and ornaments.
It also means practicing Judaism in front of people who perhaps have never heard a Hebrew prayer before. I take pride in being a Jewish woman and in raising a Jewish child, but it can be difficult to feel at ease in your own skin when you are the only one lighting the candles and reciting the blessings.
So part of my preparation is also readying myself for the questions – what is Hanukkah about? Why do you light candles? What does that prayer mean? These reflections are meaningful and part of my job as a Jewish woman is to share that knowledge and welcome curiosity from those who are genuine in their quest to learn.
How are we incorporating Christmas this year?
Because we are traveling and because we have both cats and a toddler, we chose not to do a tree this year. But we are open to future trees, and we got gussied up for Santa in our finest Hanukkah dresses for pictures. So for now, we will celebrate Christmas like so many others – purely as a reason to visit family, enjoy twinkling lights and exchange gifts.
What does the future hold?
No one can say with certainty what they will do next year or even next week, but as my daughter gets older and sees other families celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah, I want her to feel included. So if that means we have a Christmas tree in a few years, I’m okay with it. But we will be consistent that for us, the tree is purely decoration, and Santa, a jolly fellow indeed, will visit us with a few gifts, but most of the presents under the tree will be from family and friends.