Our interfaith family has had a pretty laid back approach to the holiday dilemma. I come from a Scandinavian tradition, so the December holidays are in many ways more cultural than religious. It was a time of year of candles and celebrations in my grandparents’ nativeDenmarkbecause it also was a time of year with little daylight. The holidays dispelled some of the cold and dark. The holidays were always a special time in my family too with a visit to my grandmother where the whole big family came together and we saw cousins and second cousins we saw just once a year. And of course growing up in theMidwestI remember Christmas concerts at school and the community Christmas sing a long. These were fond memories and family traditions that I wanted to be able to share with my own child.
I grew up a Catholic but in a family of many faiths – Episcopal, United Church of Christ, Lutheran, and Unitarian. My husband grew up in a Jewish household and wanted to ensure we raised our son with a Jewish education. For me, I’d had my fill of religious education at parochial school and CCD classes and knew I didn’t want that for my child. Church and religious education were something we were made to do. Our family was lucky to find the Sunday School for Jewish Studies. There were lots of families like ours at SSJS and our son got a great Jewish education there in a once-a-week format that didn’t make him feel like we were making him go or pushing religion on him. Two years ago we celebrated a very spiritual and meaningful Bar Mitzvah that not only included all our non-Jewish family and friends, but that touched them deeply. Even our Jewish family was truly surprised at the Bar Mitzvah – it was so different from what they were used to yet also so meaningful. My husband I felt like we had found that middle ground and were happy we had chosen SSJS for our son.
We have few holiday conflicts these days. We’ve developed traditions for our family that include a Hanukah party, the menorah and of course our Christmas tree – a real holiday mash up. We enjoy the connection between the lights of Hanukah and the lights on the tree and I think back fondly to my grandmother and my Scandinavian roots. It all fits together somehow.
-Contributed by Margaret Albright, Sunday School for Jewish Studies parent
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