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Sunday, November 29, 2015

Blending Families in December: is it Really So Complicated?

Recipe:

One single (Jewish) mom and a five year old son

One married (Jewish) dad and same son, both parents Jewish.

One soon-to- be parent from Episcopalian family (because, reader, I married him)

Add:

Hanukkah

Christmas

Shake well until blended. Trees? Menorahs? Latkes? Dreidels? Presents?

I tried not to think of it as complicated. But I didn’t have a family like Ruby’s in The Beat on Ruby’s Street, where there wasn’t much stuff going on religiously – or if there was a religion, it was art.

I had my own, very real family, and couldn’t write our story without all the players writing with me.

My son Josh was five when I married his stepfather, whose family expected us for Christmas at their Two Harbors cabin just a few months later.  Josh’s father, a cantor at a local synagogue, worried about how Christmas would land on his son and though I didn’t say so, I worried a bit myself.

It’s not easy to hold on to your heritage if you’re not Christian on Christmas, because the world is celebrating and you feel like you can’t celebrate with it. And Christmas is fun—and beautiful. Who wouldn’t want to celebrate?

When both parents are Jewish (or anything else) you don’t need to worry about it. You just do whatever you do and your kids learn your particular family traditions—and that’s the end of it.

When one parent is of one faith and the other is of no faith, how do you figure it out? (I have no idea so I can’t really tell you).


When both parents are of different faiths, though, how do you share? Do you share? What’s negotiable and what’s not?

Maybe it is kind of complicated.

At my house, we decided that since we would be packing up and going north to my husband’s family cabin, it didn’t make sense to lug a tree into our house. We celebrate Hannukah at home, lighting the menorah and going to Hanukkah parties and making latkes and observing Jewish traditions.

If Hannukah falls over Christmas, we bring our menorah and dreidels to the cabin and celebrate there. But we also respect my husband’s family’s holiday by helping them decorate their tree and sharing presents.

My son got a double dose of presents in December, so he saw nothing to be dilemma’d about. As it happened, my in-laws did not go to church and there was nothing especially religious about the holiday, though Josh’s aunt did send him an advent calendar every year. I shared it with him, but he did not comment on it much beyond looking at the colors, and I did not comment either.

Fast forward to the present day and Josh is now studying to be a cantor, like his father. He grew up being very proud of his Jewish roots and at the same time, enjoys his stepfather’s family and their celebrations. I think he could see and understand the difference between his household and his stepfather’s – and found that while Christmas is fun and beautiful, the Jewish holidays are too.

End of story?

As Ruby would say, kinda-sorta. But what happens if you have a blended family and celebrate each holiday in your home and personal space?

I don’t know. But if you do, I’d love to hear from you...