The Holiday Dilemma

| November 29, 2011 | 0 Comments

By Ilene Hubbs

My kids were raised with a Jewish mother and a Catholic father, and we were determined to give them the holiday experiences that each of us grew up with. For our family it wasn’t so much the sharing of religious teachings but instead a way to recognize and respect our family’s differences and see the similarity of it all when it came to being a together during a holiday. What that meant to us was sharing lots of eating experiences, telling stories of what the holiday is about, and of course, for the kids, a chance to get presents twice in December. Though my children are grown with kids of their own, and their father has passed away, those traditions continue.

When they were young December was filled with what seemed like frantic activity. There were lights to be strung outside our house, a Christmas tree to be decorated, stockings hung on the fireplace mantle and a menorah that was lit each of the eight nights of Hanukkah.  We were charged with the dilemma of figuring out presents for two holidays that were in the same month.

For Hanukkah the tradition dictated that we give them one present each night. Then right around the corner came Christmas, even more presents. I was determined to keep the holidays from being in competition with each other, a daunting task. It’s just that Christmas has more tools to make it special. There’s that tree. It has ornaments and lights. It has tinsel… throwing tinsel on the tree in just the right way is very exciting to a little child. Then there are those lights. How festive to drive up to your own home and see it sparkling in the night with many colored bulbs. Not to mention Santa Claus. Once they got over the fear of sitting on the lap of a large bearded man dressed in red, they just loved him. How can you not love a man you don’t even know who brings you presents? Next to all of this the little menorah, with its candles lit one night at a time, seemed almost insignificant. Plus there are no decorations. The redeeming factor was that a special present came night after night for eight days. We hoped our kids would not be confused, although I wondered when I heard one of them reply to a question about their religion by saying, “I’m a Jewish Catholic”.

Well my “Jewish Catholic” children are grown now and seem none the worse for wear. They liked having two cultures form their identity. They took away what they wanted from the experience and I think they took the best part of all. They value getting together as a family, sitting around the table with four generations from different backgrounds with different perspectives on religion, yet similar in the ways that count.  The joy of the holidays transcends the differences in origin. They both highlight the meaning of family, of giving and of perpetuating the culture. Because when you think about it, aren’t all religions just different paths to the same ending?  Now it is December and Hanukkah and Christmas loom ahead.  We only give to the children now, but the dilemma is still there. This year the 6th night falls on Christmas day. Now that’s how many presents?

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