Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Interfaith Traditions -- by Cara

This is always an interesting time of year for our family. And a lot of work for me! See, my husband is Jewish, I am not, but we are raising our son to be Jewish. All of this is fine except for one major thing. My son is in love with everything Christmas, especially Santa Claus!

It all started when my father was still alive and my son was 2 and 3 years old. Since my father didn’t have the stamina to put up his own Christmas tree each year, as he became elderly, we would put one up in our home while he watched us decorate it. And my Mother-in-Law never wanted my father’s holiday to be forgotten, so she would cook a big Christmas dinner for all of us.

My son, even at this young age, took all of this in. Besides the fact that there are Christmas displays everywhere you look this time of year. And Christmas cartoons, movies, and songs just about everywhere. My son became completely enamored with the mystery of Christmas.

Every year, I try to instill both the religious meaning and tradition of Hanukkah in him. But it never seems to trump Santa. “Eight crazy nights!,” I exclaim! “Eight nights of gifts!” The lighting of the candles on the beautiful Menorah he made at religious school! Still, he wants to know when Santa is coming. “How many more days, Mommy?,” he’ll ask.

My father is no longer with us, but the tradition of putting up a tree and decorating it still remain. My son moved all of the items away from the fireplace so that Santa can have easy access into our home. I am wondering how many more years he will still be believing in Santa Claus? I was certain that once he started religious school, the mystery of Santa and his reindeer would be exposed. Didn’t happen. He goes to school with predominantly Jewish children and has mostly Jewish friends. But he cannot be swayed. I’ve brought him to Tot Shabbat services, Hanukkah lightings at our Temple, festivities celebrating Hanukkah! Still, he wants to hold on to the belief of Santa.

So, as we do every year, I put up the Hanukkah decorations first. Read him books about celebrating Hanukkah, make Hanukkah crafts and play “Spin the Dreidel” with him. We watch my Mother-in-Law make potato Latkes. We put on Jewish music celebrating Hanukkah. Still, it all doesn’t matter. He anxiously awaits the man in the red suit and the white beard.

I must admit, preparing for two different winter holidays is not easy. Hanukkah is a little easier, but dragging an artificial tree up from the basement, putting it together, decorating it, making cookies for Santa and wrapping presents for BOTH holidays is a chore. I’m secretly hoping that my son comes to the realization that there really isn’t a Santa Claus. My work load would certainly diminish.

But I’m not going to be the one to squelch my son’s fantasy. It will come naturally on it’s own. Then maybe we can all focus on one holiday, light candles, eat latkes, sing songs and be united in the tradition of Hanukkah. In the meantime, I really wish my son didn’t have to announce to his religion teacher what Santa would be bringing him this year!

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