Sunday, December 21, 2008

Holidays

My husband and I come from different religious traditions, and we celebrate lots of holidays. I never met a holiday I didn't like, so it's been pretty wonderful. When we married, everyone told us that we'd have a lot of problems trying to deal with our diverse heritages, but it really has worked very well for us. I feel like our family life has been richer for it.

We have other differences, too: my husband is from New York and my family comes from California. And where do we live? In the Midwest. A number of years ago I found a rubber stamp of American Gothic, Grant Wood's iconic painting of middle America, and this year I decided I could turn it into a holiday card ideally suited to our situation.
Hanukkah and Christmas sometimes overlap and sometimes don't. When the kids were little it was easier when there was some space between the two, but either way we still tried to keep each tradition inclusive of the other.
That Christmas tree ornament you see is a dreidel, which is used in a game played at Hanukkah. Each side of the spinning dreidel has a Hebrew letter, one letter for the first word of the sentence (in Hebrew) "A great miracle happened here." The story goes that the Jews used gambling with the dreidel as a cover for clandestine meetings to study Torah when they were under Syrian rule. The 'miracle' refers to the oil for the temple menorah that burned for 8 days even though there was only enough oil for 1 day. Depending on which letter lands on top when you spin the dreidel, you take a different amount of winnings from the pot -- or you have to put some in!
These quilted Hanukkah placemats are made to look like dreidels. I got these before I learned to quilt, but I'm going to make some for my children once they get settled in their own homes. (If you look carefully in the upper right corner of the photo, you'll see a Christmas package that's under our tree.)

When the kids were little, we had lots of conversations about the various holidays and the girls had to come to terms with the fact that not everyone believes the same thing and that sometimes there is no easy "right" and "wrong". That's a tough lesson, but I'm glad my kids grew up learning to understand how good people can come from many backgrounds. When my youngest daughter was 6, she ran upstairs while we were decorating the tree to make a star for the top. Look carefully at its shape and at what she wrote on it.
"G-d is with both." (Many Jews write 'God' that way.) We were so pleased by the message that now this star tops our tree every year. It reminds us that whatever holidays we celebrate, life in this world belongs equally to us all.

23 comments:

Susan said...

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Exuberant Color said...

A lot of us had no contact with any other religion when we were kids (I had never heard of Catholics until I was in high school) and we are now trying to learn the differences. I bought a book that explains all of the different religions and it really helped me to be able to discuss them with friends who had other beliefs. Your kids are lucky to have been educated about it when they were young.

Lazy Gal Tonya said...

wonderful post - I love seeing the traditions celebrated together. have you heard of Brad Hirshfield's book: You Don't Have to Be Wrong for Me to be Right - Finding Faith Without Fanaticism? I heard a radio interview with the author and it sounded quite good.

Clare said...

Lovely post. Religion has never been a strong feature in my family, be it when I was a child and now. DD is showing an interest in becoming a Catholic, but I think that has got more to do with her friends than for religious reasons.

True Blue Nana said...

How wonderful that you can celebrate your diversity. Your kids have such an advantage over kids that have only been exposed to one ethnicity or religion. Wouldn't it be wonderful if others could accept differences the way your family has?

Belvie said...

I enjoyed this post so much. Wouldn't this world be such a wonderful place if everyone could be respectful of someone who believes differently than they do. Your DDs are so fortunate to have grown up learning about different beliefs and learning the importance of each in their lives.

Norma said...

That star tell your story. Your children were so lucky to have the rich culture of both parents. I am sure they are more understanding of the differences we all have.

It goes to show that there are problems dealing with things only if you let there be problems. You and your husband did a great job of blending because you respected the other's belief.

Whatever the holiday, it is about peace and understanding. Best wishes for yours!

Quiltdivajulie said...

Marvelous post ~ and what a message for the world to hear and adopt! I will likely check out the book Tonya mentioned ~ life is too short to spend so much time arguing about dominance when there is room for more than one point of view.

em's scrapbag said...

What great lessons you have taught you girls.

Libby said...

LOVE the tree topper. Thanks for sharing your traditions...I agree, what's not to love about more holidays?

Tami said...

Happy Hanukkah and Merry Christmas to you and your family! We haven't made any latkes yet either but I may get the ingredients and make them tomorrow night. The dreidel placements are sweet looking and a great addition to your holiday table. Cheers! :-)

ROZ said...

Happy Chanukah, and Merry Christmas also. I love the idea of the placemats shaped like dreidles. Never seen that before.

Michael5000 said...

The Stamp is VERY nice!

: D

Catherine said...

What a fabulous way to bring up your children!! Your tree's star is perfect!

Cathi said...

The star just brings tears to my eyes, having my own little wise six year old at the moment. Wonderful post.

Pattie said...

Hi Cheri -

Just stopping by to wish you Happy Holidays and all the best in the coming year.

My daughter and her fiancé celebrate what they call "Christmakkuh," where both December holidays co-exist wonderfully well. Sounds like the same is true at your home. That tree stopper is the best example that it CAN be done!

Take care -
Pattie

Laurel said...

I laughed out loud when I got your card. I loved it!

Di said...

Thank you for sharing your Christmas/Hannukah traditions with us! It sounds like you have created a great balance! Merry Christmas and Happy Hannukah (but I think it may have passed already!)

Finn said...

Good Morning Cheri, I've popped over to wish you the happiest of holidays *VBS* Love the post! You do an excellent job with the diversity explaination. It's a BIG,BIG world as the song says, and there is room for everything and everybodys belief. We are all more alike than not, if we seek the best in people, places and things.
I love the star!! And also your ice storm pictures. Big holiday hugs, Finn

Liz said...

I love how you try to celebrate both holidays for your children!

jillytacy said...

That is beautiful and inspiring! Often there isn't a clear right or wrong and I like how you raised your girls to see both ways so that they can make their own decisions about what they believe in.

JulieZS said...

I just love the stamp you created, perfect! We do a very similar thing in our household. It is great to see other people communicating the message to their kids that one certain way is not the only right or true way to believe (or not believe). A hard lesson to teach, but a necessary one!

Helen said...

Hi Cheri

Sorry I haven't dropped by for a while. I have a few minutes before my friend arrives to take me fabric shopping so I thought I would catch up on some blog reading. This is a great post. We would all do well to remember good people come from all different backgrounds.