This is a strange time of year for me, as I am sure is the case for many religious converts.
I grew up in a secular Christian home. I occasionally went to church with my grandma, but it was not a part of our lives. Christmas was all about Santa Claus and family get togethers and … d’uh … presents! I have wonderful memories of the holiday as a child (and as an adult!).
As I sat in front of the panel of rabbis who would decide if I would be accepted into the faith (I referred to them as my Rabbinical Inquisition), one of the questions they asked me in my hour-long interview was how I planned to handle Christmas.
My answer: I would honor my parents by celebrating the holiday with them (gifts, cards, etc.), yet it would be like attending someone else’s birthday party: It is a joyous event, just not MY holiday.
They seemed pleased that I had already thought it through. I knew the answer because I’d been living it ever since I started exploring the faith three years earlier. Everything I learned matched what I had believed my entire life. That first Christmas was rough since it is no longer felt the same, yet I hadn’t developed my Chanukah traditions yet.
My parents have been so supportive. Ever since that first year my mom has helped with the transition. She has ensured that I had a gift to open each night of Chanukah, even when I was living in England. My wonderful step-mom has ensured that there would always be something I could eat at Christmas dinner – made all the more challenging during the eight years when I followed most of the dietary restrictions!
I feel like I’ve come up with my own way of celebrating the holiday season that honors the holiday of my youth and meets my spiritual needs. How have you adapted the rituals of your youth to suit the person you are now?