Wednesday, December 02, 2009


As a four year old, Ada is working out what we do and who we are as a family, and how that is different or the same as other families. I come from a Jewish family, and Chris's family is what I call American-Christian, meaning that they celebrate Christmas more as a time to be with family, eat good food and give presents than as a holiday specifically honoring their god. Our nuclear family celebrates Hanukkah with a menorah, latkes and a dreidel. For Christmas, we go to Chris's parents' house. This works out well, as it allows us to celebrate with family and friends and yet I can avoid putting up a tree or lights at home. Somehow, putting up Christmas decorations at home feels like it would cross a line that apparently wasn't already obliterated by my eating pork, marrying outside my family's religion or failing to observe the myriad other rules and traditions of the Jewish faith.

Negotiating, and even explaining, our family's traditions and observances to Ada is already a bit complicated. The other night Chris and Ada were reading a book about Hanukkah. This got them talking about Hanukkah; celebrating with friends, eating latkes, etc. Chris talked about how we will do that here at home, and then later in the month we will go to Grandma and Bunka's for Christmas.

"And then Kwanzaa?" Ada asked.

Chris told Ada that different families celebrate different holidays. We celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas, some other families just celebrate Hanukkah, others celebrate Christmas, others Kwanzaa. Ada seemed satisfied with this explanation, which relieved Chris. He wondered how many holidays we might be required to celebrate if Ada got it in her head that we should do them all. Just in case, he suggested I might want to avoid bringing up the subject of Ramadan with Ada, lest we find ourselves fasting next August.


  1. It may feel complicated, but I think this is a wonderful way to grow up. Your holidays will never be dull.

  2. We're not at all Jewish, but somehow, last Christmas eve - a year in which Christmas and Hanukkah coincided - we found ourselves eating latkes and hamburgers for dinner. It seemed just right to me.

    My friend the Episcopal priest claims that I, atheist, am a cultural Christian. I kind of understand that, though I rather prefer to say that I'm heathenly celebrating the Winter Solstice.

  3. I was engaged to a Jew years ago. We would have Hanukkah with his family and then on late Christmas day go back to his family. Christmas eve and Christmas day was spent with the Christians. It made for a very long holiday season.

  4. One of the few religious traditions I have committed to is celebrating Passover with my friend Peter (whose wife is Catholic). Last year, the kids were complaining that they wanted more hard-boiled egg after the seder plate was finished, and Peter said "You can have more hard-boiled eggs next weekend at Easter."

    Here's to blended families.

  5. Also I believe the city govt frowns on slaughtering sheep in your backyard for the Eid al Adha! ;)
    So, uh, what do I say? Merry, Happy, Fun...? Enjoy it all, anyway.