As a Jew, my only memories of Christmas growing up were watching movies and eating Chinese food. For real.
When my husband and I started to get serious, he invited me to attend midnight mass on Christmas Eve with his family.
While awkward at first, as the years passed, I began to embrace Christmas. Not as a religious holiday but as another time for family, fun and, yes, presents. This Jewish girl had a stocking, and when I became a Jewish mother, so did my kids. I looked forward to each day after Thanksgiving when the huge tree would go up and we would help decorate. Ornaments from when my husband and his brothers were kids, one of the door to our first home together, and special Baby's First Christmas for my babies.
I loved celebrating Christmas with my husband's family. We taught our kids as soon as they could understand that we celebrated Christmas Eve traditions at their great-grandparents' house, Christmas Day with Nana and Grampy, and Hanukkah in our home. We didn't have a Christmas tree, but got to share in that special tradition at their house, while they got to share our special tradition of lighting the Menorah, frying latkes and spinning dreidels at ours. On the rare occasion that one of the eight nights of Hanukkah overlapped with Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, we lit a menorah and opened gifts under the tree.
How awesome is it that I married into a family that respects my holiday traditions, too? Celebrating the holidays in an interfaith home was never an issue.
Then my mother-in-law got sick. Cancer doesn't care about Christmas.
She died one April and when December was around the corner, I asked what we were doing for Christmas. No one had an answer. I think the feelings surrounding losing her and the fact this was her big holiday were still numb.
So I, the Jewish mother who learned to love Christmas, insisted we do something. We didn't need a huge celebration, with each gift perfectly wrapped or each story behind each ornament told verbatim. We simply needed to be together and still have a nice Christmas.
It's been nearly 12 years now that she's been gone. We still don't celebrate Christmas or have a tree in our home, but we love telling stories about Christmas at Nana and Grampy's house.
This Jewish mother wouldn't celebrate the holidays any other way.
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