Back in April, my husband and I did what we’ve always done in preparation for Passover. We packed our bags and headed over to my parents’ place, where we spent the entire week. On Shavuot, we did the same thing—packed up the kids and bunked with my folks for a couple of days. In fact, every time a Jewish holiday rolls around, we follow the same pattern.
My husband and I have been married for almost nine years, and we’ve yet to actually celebrate a Jewish holiday on our own with the exception of Tu Bishvat—and that’s mostly because I have this inexplicable obsession with Tu Bishvat that I’m not ashamed of in the least.
In previous years, before kids came into the picture, we’d either spend the holidays at my parents’ place or, for the lesser-known ones (Shemini Atzeret, anyone?), do nothing at all. But once our son reached toddlerhood, celebrating the holidays became much more of a priority, so much so that I spent several years losing out on the chance to take a real vacation after having used up all my time off for holidays that fell out during the week.
I’m proud to say that over the last two years, I’ve celebrated every single holiday with my son and family. But I’ve done it at somebody else’s house.
This arrangement seems to work well for everyone. My parents get to see their grandchildren, and while packing isn’t fun, I get the benefit of not having to cook or do much in the way of preparation. (Typically I bring dessert and call it a day.) But now that I’ve got my own community and family, including twin baby girls, I’m thinking it may be time for me to start celebrating some of those holidays in my own house.
In fact, my husband and I have already told my parents that we won’t be joining them for Sukkot this year. Instead, we’re planning to attend services at our temple, host some meals at home, and accept invites to others. And, if the stars align, we might actually build our own sukkah.
Part of me is kind of nervous about this, as I have no idea what the holidays will look or feel like without my parents and extended family around to add to the celebration. But I do think doing some holidays on my own will, in some ways, make me feel like more of an adult. (Isn’t there an old saying that you’re not really an adult till you’ve hosted your own Passover seder, or am I making that up?)
More so than that, being responsible for at least a few holidays is important to me on an emotional level. By taking charge of those holidays, I’m reinforcing my commitment to Judaism, and I’m learning how to do it on my own without using my parents as a crutch.
Sukkot this year won’t be the same as it’s been in previous years, but I’m excited to see what traditions develop as I set out to create my own menus. It won’t be the delicious stuffed cabbage my grandmother always makes, but I have faith that I’ll manage to come up with something tasty. And I’m really, really hoping we manage to build that sukkah, because even though I’m the least crafty person on the planet, I’ve already got several ideas for my son to help decorate it. Maybe we’ll make our own paper chains out of colored construction paper. Perhaps we’ll print out pictures of fruit and hang them from our sukkah walls. Or maybe we’ll get lazy and order decorations online. As long as my son has fun with it, I’m not picky.
It’s going to feel weird celebrating a holiday without my parents and family, but I finally feel like I’m ready for it—at least as far as Sukkot goes anyway. Passover is a whole other story.