December 20th, 2003

little review

Poem for Saturday

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Happy Chanukah! We celebrated with my parents last night, and tonight there is a big surprise party for one of my distant cousins that all my relatives and a lot of Washington-area journalists will be at since my cousin and her husband are both connected with The Washington Post, so I need to get into high-gear holiday schmooze mode. Meanwhile, I must go work before my husband's parents come to babysit my kids.

We are going to my husband's parents' new house for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I am trying to figure out whether it is fair to make a "no presents on Christmas morning" demand, which will throw off their traditional holiday morning. But we've had two years without my kids being subjected to that, and are no longer getting asked why we can't do it in our house, and I really don't want to start the argument up again. It's one thing to explain that we're celebrating with their grandparents, not really celebrating Christmas ourselves, but it's another to have them understand why this distinction is so important, in a culture where Christmas seems as prevalent as idols must have been in the time of the Maccabees.

It's next to impossible to make a seven year old understand why anyone would choose not to take an opportunity for presents and cake. On the other hand, I didn't particularly have this problem growing up because even though we often went to friends' Christmas parties, I was always very aware of our status as outsiders, non-participants. But it's something else, I think, when one's own grandparents are religious Christians (and ostensibly "Put the Christ Back In Christmas" believers, though they're perfectly willing to lavish gifts on our kids since we're obviously not going to take them to church). My son occasionally tries to explain to me that he is only half-Jewish since his father was raised Christian and has not formally converted; being a devout agnostic, my husband doesn't really see the point, nor does he want to go through all the study, and given that he goes to shul and keeping a Jewish home, I am not going to press this point.

But if we accept the invitation to his parents' house for Christmas, do I have the right to say "no" to the Christmas morning ritual of the long unwrapping of presents and eating sweets for breakfast? And if not, what should I say to my kids about it? I did it with them for years before we had children; I probably spent ten consecutive Christmas mornings celebrating with them before they retired and started traveling. And I probably went to church for ten consecutive Christmas eve services, though for me that was always spectacle, not spiritual. I have NEVER had any confusion about how I define myself religiously, even if my actual beliefs run far afield of tradition.

Gerbilfans, go look at jommy's latest, snuggling nesting gerbils! For her: