Traditions: we’ve all got ‘em, especially around the holidays. What is it about my family’s traditions that keep them going strong for my children in our blended faith family?
I was raised by two liberal Jewish parents. The Hanukkah tradition in our home included lighting the menorah each night, then opening one of the presents that had been arranged around a three foot tall foil covered Star of David my dad made as a substitute Xmas tree. The presents grew in size (and probably in value) over the eight nights of the holiday. I think one year we might have broken Mom down and got a tree, which we euphemistically called a Hanukkah bush. Every year Dad put the blue and white “Xmas” lights in the window.
My spouse was raised as a Mormon and was married a couple of times to at least semi-Mormon women. He brought a lot of leftover ornaments to our marriage. I was pregnant when we celebrated our first Xmas together. He was so excited and told me that our baby had to have a Xmas tree, even if she wasn’t here to see it yet. I went along with it when he went out and purchased a new fake tree and put it up in front of the window in his house. He pulled out the recycled ornaments and lights and we decorated it together.
Fast forward about 3 or 4 years. We now have two daughters who are well acquainted with both their Jewish and Mormon grandparents and know that the beliefs of each are nowhere near the same. In the interim, every year, we put up the new fake tree with the recycled ornaments. By this age, the kids are in pre-school and other places where making Xmas ornaments is standard practice.
So we expanded the tradition by adding a menorah, and then two menorahs so there would not be fights over who would light the candles. I continued my family’s Hanukkah gift-giving practice starting on the first night with equal or equivalent dollar store items for each of my girls and ending eight nights later with equal or equivalent department or book or electronics store items. The kids made new ornaments and decorations at school and scouts every year. We also started to buy ornaments as souvenirs on family trips so over the years the new ornaments replaced the recycled ones, which were falling apart or breaking anyway, and the fake tree became a very real part of our holiday traditions.
Later, decorating and undecorating the tree were added as family activities. Our family, being non-traditional in many ways at this time of year, did it a little different than most I knew. Dad and Mom would take the tree out of the box and build it. Then Dad and kids would string the lights, followed by Mom and kids unpacking boxes of ornaments and decorations, trimming the tree and the house. The whole process, including participants, happened in reverse at the end of the season.