Each year, as we get through the holiday season, we are faced with the necessity to identify ourselves. Not in the sense that I have to show my driver's license everytime I use my debit card, but as Jews in a Christian society. At the beginning of the month I found myself making the comment "no, you aren't used to having to schedule meetings around every holiday, because you automatically get the day off for yours." This may sound like I have a chip on my shoulder, but I really don't. I'm not bitter, but do feel the need to live according to my own principals, which can mean speaking up.
I grew up knowing that Christmas was lots of fun, but was not our holiday. We celebrated Chanukah, and could enjoy various aspects of Christmas, but that it was somebody else's holiday. My friends would have me over to decorate their Christmas trees (and still do!), but I've never had, nor wanted a Christmas tree of my own. I've been to church for Communions and Confirmations, but always in celebration of somebody else. Because I had exposure to these other traditions, I never felt left out as a child when it came to the holidays. I felt pretty lucky getting to celebrate for eight days rather than just one and it was always a very fun time. Now, we need to forge our way as parents to give our boys the same sense of identity, without a feeling of exclusion or envy.
The school the boys are attending has been great. This being our first holiday season there, we didn't know what to expect. When we picked them up last week to see menorahs on the walls of the classrooms that each child had colored, I was gratified to know that different traditions are being taught there. We were told that there is to be a gift exchange this Thursday and a Holiday Program on Friday. First off, seeing Hayden carefully holding onto the name he drew for the gift exchange was very cute. Unlike the way I tend to go about these things, he didn't forget which friend he picked, and we are all set for tomorrow.
The school has been rehearsing for their Holiday Program for a couple weeks now. Hearing all the new songs Hayden and Logan are singing is so sweet. It seems that they each pick up a different song each week. Last night Logan was singing Baa Baa Black Sheep for the first time. Hayden has started singing the national anthem, but doesn't seem to quite get the lyrics. I cracked up to hear him belting out "O-oh say can you seeeeee? By the dawn's early liiiight! We're so proud of Eeeee-an!" Um, what? Who's Ian? Anyway, he'll get it eventually. I find it too funny to want to correct him. When Fillip spoke to the teacher today regarding the Holiday Program, they said that they hadn't given our boys a part because they don't attend on Fridays. Oops! Hayden had told me they had been rehearsing, and I certainly can't see letting him rehearse for two weeks, then saying "Sorry, you don't go to school on Fridays." So, I made the arrangements to have them there an extra day this week, freeing up my mother-in-law to attend the program too! Before we got off the phone, the director of the school mentioned they all needed to wear Santa hats in the program. Hmmm. Here's that Santa issue again. Hayden clearly knows that Santa isn't real, and that we don't celebrate Christmas. Is it hypocritical to give him a Santa hat to wear? Is it over-sensitive to not let him wear a Santa hat? I did mention to the director that we celebrate Chanukah and she asked that I have them wear some hat, as all the kids will have something. I had to really consider this all morning.
And, you know what? I'm getting them Santa hats. I came to the conclusion that it isn't a religious symbol, doesn't have any implications that would conflict with our own faith just by wearing the hat, and I just don't think it would be worth it to have them feel left out over something so trivial in the big picture. It seems that in order to live in a society where our traditions are not the majority, some assimilation will be necessary in order to assert our own identity on the bigger issues.