The Season of December Decisions
As we move into the season of "December Decisions", there are many things that we in the Jewish community can do to help our Christian friends, family, neighbors and co-workers celebrate Christmas. Just as we help others celebrate their birthdays, similarly, we as Jews, can help those we care about make their Christian holiday special and memorable. We can buy and wrap gifts for those in need, and do acts of loving-kindness, which enable those close to us to experience their holiday most meaningfully.
For those in interfaith relationships and interfaith families, it is especially important to mark this season of giving, by giving of yourself, to be especially supportive of those you love. Listen to your Christian partner/family's needs to celebrate their holiday in a meaningful way and try to give of yourself to meet those needs. Recognize that this is a once a year opportunity to share and understand holiday traditions that hold special memories for your partner/partner's families. Let yourself and your children be fully present to help those you love celebrate their traditions. You might wish to remind Santa to deliver late Hanukkah gifts to Jewish children or adults wrapped in Hanukkah paper, to reinforce the Jewish identity of Jewish family members who are helping others to celebrate their Christmas holiday. As Jews, we can still enjoy the sparkling lights, unique flavor of eggnog, lovely music and other traditions that make the Christmas season so special for Christian family and friends.
The celebration of Hanukkah cannot hold a candle, not even eight candles, to the beauty and meaning Christmas holds for Christians, so do not try to balance Christmas with Hanukkah, a minor Jewish holiday---- most especially this year when on the Jewish lunar calendar, Hanukkah fell in November. Balance the joy and memories Christian friends and family members experience in December with the full cycle of the Jewish year of holidays and festivals specified in the Torah. Jewish homes should enjoy the warm glow of Shabbat candles and the delicious taste of challah as a weekly opportunity to create Jewish holiday memories. During the Jewish year, decorate a Succah with fragrant evergreen boughs open to the stars, dance with the Torah scrolls on Simchat Torah and savor the family traditions shared at Passover Seders. Dip apples in honey to mark the sacred seasons of each new Jewish year, filling the days with mitzvot, acts of giving and loving-kindness, doing our part to make our world a better place.
A special word for those individuals who are making new Jewish choices in their lives and homes--especially those new Jews-by-Choice: remember that holiday memories build slowly, especially when holidays come only once each year. It takes time to create new, sweet, Jewish memories that enable you to replace some of the cherished traditions you celebrated with your Christian family. Be good to yourself around this. Keep your sweet memories with you on your journey into Jewish life. The music, tastes, and traditions of Christmas can still be appreciated with a new Jewish perspective.
As you make your "December Decisions" this season, may you conclude 2013 by making the most of opportunities to give of yourself and share loving-kindness with the many people who enrich your life with their love, devotion and friendship. May 2014 be filled with new learning, new adventures, much fulfillment, and many sweet memories for your life journey.
Dr. Paula Brody is the Director of The Outreach Training Institute, a program of URJ Reform Jewish Outreach Boston, which provides clergy, educators, Jewish professionals and lay leaders with sensitivity and skills to nurture Jewish choices for interfaith couples and families. With over 20 years of experience working with interfaith couples, Dr. Brody has authored a Pre-Marital Counseling Guide for clergy available through the CCAR (Central Conference of American Rabbis) press. Visit www.ReformJewishOutreachBoston for a schedule of upcoming Outreach Training Institute programs.