I know we've discussed before that Josh is Jewish and I'm Catholic, and not surprisingly, December is a tough time of year for us. Or well, a tough time of year for me. When we were dating and it became abundantly clear very early on that this relationship was for the long haul, we agreed we would pick one religion for our children rather than have the kids attempt to celebrate both Christianity and Judaism. For many different reasons, we ended up choosing Judaism, so the kids are being raised Jewish. Since Judaism passes through the mother, they were both converted when they were a few months old with a ceremony and a party and a dunking under water at a traditional Jewish bath.
It has worked out for us, and it turns out I am an excellent fake Jew. One of my friends works at a temple and she says regularly that I'm more Jewish than most of the Jews she knows, so my kids seem to be doing just fine. The real trouble is, however, you don't realize how much of your childhood memories are tied up in religion until you can't celebrate those things anymore. No Easter baskets, no references to Santa Claus, no Christmas trees, no advent wreaths, no midnight masses. When I was a practicing Catholic, I went to church every week, did youth group, was a lector at church, participated in tons of holiday events. It has been a huge change for me to raise children who aren't Catholic.
Last year, I found myself feeling particularly sad as the holidays approached. I felt as if none of my childhood rituals were being passed down to my kids, as if I had nothing to share. It was a difficult December, especially with the multiple hits of the stomach flu and ear infections. As December came to a close, I sat down with Josh and told him something had to change. I cannot feel this way for the rest of my life, and as we often do when issues come up, we talked about what changes we can make.
After much gnashing of teeth and discussion, we are going to incorporate some of my traditions and call them by different names. Last year we colored Passover eggs with the kids, and although I suspect Josh was a little uncomfortable, it worked, the kids had fun, and I was happy. This year, for the first time ever, we are trying out a "Hanukkah bush". We will be decorating a small tree with silver and blue Hanukkah ornaments, most of which I suspect we will make with the kids. Doing something like this is controversial, for sure, and I expect to hear some negative comments from our Jewish friends and family, but I feel strongly that everyone has to do what works for their family. We'll try it this year and see whether it works or not, and maybe do things differently next year.
We'll also be celebrating Hanukkah, of course, with songs and cookies and community events and latkes and stories. I'm not too worried about the kids, especially because that's why we're here. If there is ever any confusion, we'll explain it. And then we'll explain it again. And again, if we need to. Hopefully this year will be a happier year for everyone.