When I think of the word tradition, I can’t help but think of the song from “Fiddler On the Roof.” My ancestors on my maternal side came from that very same region that the Jews in the musical were from, which is the Eastern Europe/Russian area. I am proud of my Jewish heritage, although I would not call myself an observant Jew. I went to Hebrew school and had a Bat Mitzvah. My husband and I even had a Jewish ceremony at our wedding, and it was beautiful.
At the same time that I was going to Hebrew school and lighting the menorah during Hanukkah with my family, we were also going to our local Farmer’s Market to pick out a Christmas tree. My parents would even bring me and my siblings to see Santa in the mall.
You can imagine how a lot of friends that came over to my house would be puzzled as to why we had a decorated Christmas tree in the house, surrounded by presents for one another.
“Aren’t you guys Jewish?”
“Does your Rabbi know about this?”
“So you get presents on Hanukkah AND Christmas?”
My best reply to these very valid questions was, “Well my Dad is Catholic, so that’s why we celebrate both.” This was definitely not the real reason why we had both a menorah and a tree.
As religion, race and culture have become redefined in these modern times, so has my own views on religion and tradition changed. And now that my husband and I have children, we get faced with questions as to how religiously and culturally we will raise our children.
With the holidays approaching, I have been reflecting on the puzzling aspect of traditions and how they define our views and faith; and what these traditions will mean for our children.
When I look back on my childhood, there is nothing I would have expected my parents to do differently during the holidays.
I remember the house being filled with the wonderful scent of oil from potato latkes and the glimmer of Hanukkah candles. I also remember the wonderful scent of pine from the tree. I loved singing Hannukah songs at Hebrew School but I also really enjoyed singing carols at regular school. I still listen to holiday music this time of year and sing to my heart’s content.
And so as my children get older, we will continue to light the menorah; but we will also get holiday photos with Santa. If time allows us to get a tree, we will get one. Just so long as they don’t knock it down! Whatever the kids enjoying doing and whatever makes us happy as a family, will serve as our “traditions” for years to come.
Do you blend traditions with your family?