33. Our Home for the Holidays

33. Our Home for the Holidays

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Merry Christmas!

Our Home for the Holidays

The purpose of all major religious traditions is not to construct big temples on the outside, but to create temples of goodness and compassion inside, in our hearts.

~Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

Some years, explaining the differences between the holidays is a struggle. After all, Christmas is Christmas. It’s everywhere. Where wouldn’t it be, right? It’s fun, it’s beautiful, and it’s festive.

It’s the stuffed snowman that sits in a small flower-pot-like container atop my unread and unclipped magazines. It’s the shiny one over my left shoulder, hanging next to the bright and shiny Star of David. And my other shoulder? Over to my right? Our tree. Our beautiful Christmas tree in all of its glory.

It’s gorgeous. I mean, it really is. A beautiful, breathtaking tree that my husband decorated in blue and white lights for me.

We’ve avoided an abundance of ornaments. I like it simple, with candy canes strewn about and a few ornaments. One ornament is a snowman. I love snowmen. Always have, probably because they connote holiday cheer without naming a specific holiday. The second ornament? A Yankees hot air balloon that my Jewish mother bought my not-Jewish-Yankee-fan husband many years ago. And the third ornament? A star of David. Yep. On the Christmas tree.

A handprint menorah hangs beneath a handcrafted Santa Claus. The tiniest of Christmas trees sits atop our Hanukkah tablecloth at the kitchen table. It’s decorated more intensely than anything you’ve ever seen.

Our house couldn’t be more balanced.

My heart is trying. My husband doesn’t mind either way. Supporting me. My methods. Goals. Whatever it is we plan for our little Jewish Southern girl.

She learns slowly what Hanukkah represents. We read books, sing songs, dance around the living room with garland and tinsel flying everywhere.

She knows, happily, that Santa comes on Christmas. And she states that she knows that not everyone sees him. She’s gone so far as to say that maybe she wouldn’t see him this year. But we’d take the dogs to see their Santa. Of course.

How beautiful, caring, sweet.

She sings Christmas songs and seasonal songs she’s learned at school. But she knows the words to the blessings we share over eight nights. “Nine,” she says, pointing to the ninth candle. I explain gently, with a reminder of what that tallest candle is for.

The other night she put her Hanukkah presents beneath the Christmas tree. Maybe it’s actually easier when the holidays are together. Maybe it’s not? I’m not sure. One year I thought it was better. The next, maybe not so much?

She’s so young. Easily confused. Am I supposed to have taught her all of my religious beliefs yet? Or is it enough to explain that I am Jewish, her daddy is not, and she is. And she’s also both, but we don’t get into the particulars. We celebrate. We observe. I talk about my memories. We Skype with my family. The whole family is there. Blessings stream over telephone wires. There are speakerphones and cellphones and three-way-calling and more. Technology brings us together and we laugh as our chorus of words jumble and overlap from 500 miles away.

It’s confusing. But I wouldn’t change it for the world.

~Andrea Bates

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