Sunday, December 16, 2007

We blend.

Two days after Thanksgiving, I put up my Christmas tree. Over the next couple of weeks, I put up all sorts of decorations, because finally - finally! - I have a space large enough to actually put all the crap away so that when I decorate, it doesn't look like a pile of papers and boots with a Christmas card lying on top. Now I actually have something close to the "Christmas in every room" theme I've always wanted.

The menorahs - and there are several - are sitting out in the dining room, next to the Santa Claus village; there's another on the living room mantle, above where the stockings are hung. You see, we blend.

I've been told that blending holidays is confusing for children. I think this idea is based on the notion that what we want to be teaching kids is to follow only one tradition, and so we don't want to contaminate, say, Hanukkah, with Christmas. Well, fair enough - it does seem unfair to Hanukkah that we celebrate it next to a Christmas tree. And Christmas has become, simply, "Capitalism," and as such, it's pretty hard to avoid, and it does overwhelm a little holiday like Hanukkah.

But on the other hand, my general approach to religion is that I do pretty darn much what I want to do, picking and choosing the traditions I like, the ones that I find meaningful, and tossing the others. As a blended family, it is not important to us that Bean pick only one tradition. We are not teaching him to follow only one tradition. We will probably start sending him to religious education in one of the synagogues at some point, but that is not because we want him to practice only Judaism - that has more to do with wanting him to know what Judaism is (because he won't get that through osmosis here) and with wanting him to know what it means to Judaism to be a Jew, so that he'll have that as he figures out, later, who he is. But my message to him is always that God is bigger, that faith is bigger, than the boxes marked "Christianity," "Judaism," etc.

And if what I want is for him to be an educated "free agent," then blending is a great opportunity to learn about different religious traditions.

So as for this idea that blending causes confusion - you know, I find that just a little bit offensive. It implies that I want to prevent my child from being exposed to different traditions, which I know that many parents do with the excuse of "rooting" their children in their own faith. They want their children to learn only their own tradition, or to learn just enough about other traditions that they have a vague knowledge of them but not so much that they might actually choose to follow those other traditions. It implies that there's something wrong with challenging organized religion, and to be honest, maybe it's my location over the last several years, but I'm still shocked and amazed that at this point, people still find it surprising that many folks create their own rituals and celebrate all kinds of traditions. I'm also shocked and amazed at how far some people have their heads up their own asses when they argue that saying "Happy Holidays" is anti-Christian or that Christmas is the only holiday in December (yes, some people actually argue that point).

The comment also frustrates me because there is also a hint of the need to keep Jewish children Jewish - and frankly, these approaches always make me want to run screaming right out of Judaism and take my kid with me (and from the other blended families I've talked to, I think many people share this reaction).

The thing is, really, that there's nothing confusing about blending if that's simply what you do. It's like, I grew up in a home in which God was never mentioned. We had no religion. That was not confusing for me in the least. But other people, people who grew up with religion, were perplexed by this. They could not fathom such a thing. To us, though, it was absolutely normal.

So I guess that's really my issue - I don't accept that my choice to celebrate Hanukkah and Christmas is confusing. It may be confusing for others, but that's not my problem: it's theirs.

(This has been a bit of a ramble. I'm rusty.)

1 comment:

Green said...

I really enjoyed your ramble. My dad's good friend from high school is Jewish and married an Italian Catholic woman. They raised two boys. Both got bar mitzvahed.

I would not be against exposing people to different religions, but I am against celebrating one religion that actively discourages another.

Happy Hanukah and Merry Christmas. If I were close enough, I'd offer you the gift of babysitting of your Bean in five minute increments, so you could go pee.