I married into a family that is very unlike my family of origin. We are of different races and ethnicities, different religions, different national backgrounds, different cultures. Yet despite these very significant differences, there are some commonalities in our celebration of the Christmas season.
My family has always celebrated Christmas, despite the fact that my mom is Jewish. Mom loves the holidays, and when I was growing up, she decorated the house from floor to ceiling in red and green Santas, snowmen, and reindeer (with a blue and silver “Hanukkah corner” prominently displayed among the Christmas swag). My husband’s family, which is Hindu, celebrated Christmas in Fiji, but it wasn’t until they immigrated to the U.S. in the early 1980s that they embraced the fun and festivities of an American-style celebration. My mother-in-law decorated her first home in the U.S. beautifully with a towering tree, garlands on the staircase banister, and lovely glass figurines. These two women from such diverse backgrounds and upbringing enjoy the Christmas trees, twinkling lights, gift-giving, special meals and treats, and lots of time with family, and that has been what this season means most to me as well.
Over the years, B and I have established many of our own traditions as we have navigated the often delicate balance between honoring our families and making choices that are meaningful to us. This has not always been a smooth transition, and both families have had to adjust as we have figured out how to mix our families of origin with our chosen family by marriage. This is not necessarily unique to a mixed-race/ethnicity/religion/culture family. In fact, any married couple will probably agree that it can be tough to blend families, especially on holidays, if either side is unwilling to compromise or accept change. But I love the traditions that have carried over from our families and the ones we have started as a married couple. They are meaningful to me, and I hope they will become meaningful to my kids as well.
Here are a few things that are constants in my holiday season:
- My parents send me Hanukkah gelt (the real stuff). I am amused that they continue to do this since I am 35 and married with two kids, but I will gratefully accept and spend my gelt on something just for me. I’m also amused that my Protestant father is the one who writes the checks.
- B and I take the kids out for a drive around the neighborhood (and maybe some other neighborhoods, too) to see the holiday lights and displays. If we happen to visit my parents in December, we also drive down Vine St., an historic street that runs parallel to the main street and has beautiful Victorian houses and an annual showcase filled with music, dancing, treats, and Scrooge shouting from his balcony. The lights on this street are amazing, and B and I enjoy this tradition as much as (if not more than) the kids.
- I give the kids matching pajamas to wear Christmas Eve. This year, they were so excited that they stripped down immediately and put on the new jams. I may be biased, but I think they’re too cute.
- H and I make some kind of cookie for Santa. This year it was gingerbread cookies, which we unfortunately forgot to leave for Santa. I’m hoping to include A in this tradition when she is a little older.
- We spend time with our families. Sometimes we are all together in a combined celebration (usually on Christmas morning), sometimes we have separate time with each set of parents/siblings. But we always spend time with loved ones, sharing a meal and some treats, and enjoying a day off from “real life.” It is this time together that really makes the holidays mean something other than commercialism and indulgence.
I hope you had a lovely holiday season, celebrating with your loved ones in whatever manner is most meaningful to you and either continuing or establishing traditions that will bind you together and give you lasting memories. I know I did.