Monday, December 26, 2005

December Dilemma

We celebrate Christmas here at my house because I grew up celebrating a secular Christmas and when my husband & I were first married, that's what we did. So we have a tree, an artificial one, but decorated with lights and ornaments and no religious symbols--well no Christian symbols. The tree itself is pagan, I suppose.

We give gifts. Our son gets a stocking full of small items, a large orange & a large apple. Those are from my spouse's family traditions.

Since Chanukah started last night, we lit our hanukkiyot (Chanukah menorahs) in the window and will do so every night of Chanukah. However we spell it.

The kid's a bit disappointed that we don't seem to have a small gift for him each night of Hanukkah, but we told him that we gave them all out on Christmas and that's that. The gift giving on Chanukah evolved in the US as a way for us Jews to compete with the allure of the Christmas. I guess we reason if our kids get gifts on Chanukah, they won't thirst after Christmas...

To tell you the truth, since my home was spectacularly secular and my grandparents didn't seem to want to inculcate Judaism as lovely way of life, I guess I fell under the spell of the season and every year I suffer a number of things:

1) seasonal affect disorder starting as soon as DST ends or whatever we fall back for occurs and that makes me susceptible.

2) being torn between wanting to celebrate Christmas secularly and religiously--although not in a particularly Christian way.

3) Wanting to sing Christmas carols, but knowing that they are not celebrating being Jewish--or all my values, I'm torn. To me, there is no king of Israel. The messiah has not arrived and if people will always be pigheaded, she won't be coming any day soon.

4) wanting to spend money in an extravagant and urgent way--especially on Oscar who will have a birthday in about a month and a half and who doesn't really require "stuff."

5) crying over sentimental Christmas movies, stories, etc and feeling cynical about doing so.

As you can see, if you've read this far, Whitman's phrase,"I am large, I contain multitudes," applies to me. I guess it's okay to have these contradictory feelings and impulses as long as I don't let them tear me apart. And as long as I'm aware of them and don't try to repress them, but if I always think about them and what they mean to me it helps keep me honest about who I am.

And the person I am could not just embrace an entirely Jewish life, living as I do in the secular world and married as I am with a man who is neither religious nor Jewish.

Today I am feeling comfortable with all these choices and not scared of anyone's disapproval or disdain.

And there is some in the Jewish community. I hear over and over again: a Jewish house shouldn't have a tree. But we do and that's that.

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