I have to admit, I get a little anxious this time of year. I could tell you it’s the non-stop assault of commercial messaging, or the radio conversion to all-Christmas-tunes-all-the-time, or the endless parade of movies glorifying the perfect festive family experience. Truthfully it’s none of that. In fact I got some great deals, I don’t mind the music, and who doesn’t love “Christmas Vacation”?
The real reason for my anxiety is the anticipation of disappointing my husband, again. He’s the Christian, I’m the Jew, and our ongoing struggle for balance and harmony reaches its annual pinnacle between December 1 and December 25.
When discussing the interfaith family in the Jewish world, we most often gravitate towards what the “other” is taking away from the Jewish person, and I don’t think we give enough consideration to what we take away from them. In this instance, I am taking away from my partner someone with shared childhood experiences of joyfulness around this holiday season. Think about the anticipation and build up over the month of advent calendars and countdowns, visits to Santa at the mall, parades, the magic of Christmas Eve, and the pure elation of Christmas morning. I just don’t have the experience, and thus, enthusiasm for it. And I genuinely feel bad about this.
My husband is a saint. Not only does our tree—called the “Oy, Tanenbaum”—have a Magen David topper (Jesus was Jewish, after all) but he also decorates it with blue and silver ornaments to pay homage to Hanukkah. Even though I have explained that Hanukkah is not a major holiday, he equates it to Christmas and tries to embrace it with a level playing field.
Me on the other hand? Well, I just slink around the house like the Grinch, bah-humbugging the whole season. I wish I could feel the anticipation and joy each Christmas Eve alongside my husband.
I have tried in every conceivable way to summon my inner child who genuinely bought into the whole Santa thing as a youngster. One year I even put up a stocking in my bedroom and secretly asked Santa, though I was Jewish, to visit me that Christmas Eve. Little did I know that a mezuzah is Santa Kryptonite, and my longing for a Christmas miracle when I awoke the next morning was met with just an empty sock.
When I married my husband I was excited about the prospect of embracing his holiday traditions and finally enjoying my very own Christmas, but sadly it didn’t happen. I assumed when our children came along that I would vicariously find the holiday magic through their experience and grow to love this time of year. I found instead that there was no enchantment for me.
So, maybe the real magic is just the culmination of childhood nostalgia, and since Christmas wasn’t part of my early experience, I’ll never have it. Though I do sincerely hope that our children enjoy building their own special memories to share with their children in the future. Also, I’d prefer that their memories not include Grumpy-Grinch-Mom.
I love that our family is a hodge-podge of traditions and that we can’t take for granted how we each experience them. I’d like to be a better partner to my husband; he genuinely makes an effort to embrace my traditions and deserves a better me. So here we go: I pledge here and now to take off my Scrooge hat, pour myself a big glass of “get over yourself,” and share in my husband’s genuine enthusiasm this year.
When our worlds collide on December 24 and we light the first Hanukkah candle, I will say an extra Shehecheyanu to help celebrate the unusual but beautiful moment that is this year’s combined holiday season. Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah, everyone!