Merry Everything: How We Do The Holidays In A Mixed Race Home

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I’m writing from Mexico, this year’s warm weather destination which we escape to often on Christmas Eve.  I didn’t always travel on the 24th. Before I was with Dan, every year on the eve of the holiday, my family and I gussied up and went to L’Andana, a gorgeous Italian restaurant and then the next morning we opened presents and ate oatmeal pancakes with vanilla bean maple syrup and listened to the Mariah Carey “All I Want For Christmas” pandora station .

I’ve written before (here) about my conversion to Judaism before marrying Dan.  It wasn’t hard in the sense of walking away from any particular religion. My mother would consider herself spiritually Hindu and my father is a non-practicing atheist, but we didn’t subscribe to any religious structure growing up.  It was harder from an identity perspective.

It’s still quite forced raising a Jewish family but I do love (most of) the holidays for the sense of tradition and familiarity for our kids. Something they can anticipate year over year, that brings them closer to family and punctuates the passing of time.

And to me that’s what the winter holidays are all about - the passing of time and the new season.  We talk a lot about seasons here - chapters of life in womanhood - but seasonally, it’s more simple.

So there’s a huge part of me that resists the overlay of religion onto something so pure. It’s an evolving conversation with Dan as we find the compromise in our home that solidifies our connection to Judaism while creates a sense of openness and seasonal universal spirit that I appreciate. For now we’ve landed on celebrating Hanukkah’s eight nights as our main festivities for December but explaining it to Bodie and Lyla as a celebration of all the light from the year during the change to the dark and cold winter season.

Last year, we added Hanukkah stockings to the mix and this year we brought back the piece I most missed from my Christmas days - a classic holiday tree that we decorated in silver moons and topped with a wood Jewish star. It may seem a bit counter to the Jewish culture to have a tree in the house, but religion aside, it’s a piece of nature that brings joy to the house as our communities celebrates the next season.

I was recently interviewed on this topic for a piece in the The Lily by one of our contributors who pointed out a sense of fluidity as I talked about our very nascent “traditions”. And it occurred to both of us it’s not so different from the spirit of the MU community - an open mind to what works for us for now and an acceptance that it’s always evolving.

So whatever you celebrate, we wish you light and joy for the season ahead.

Do you have unique traditions in your home? We’d love to know. Merry everything xo