I have to admit, I never played it out this far…
But, Wednesday night, I found myself helping my daughter put out cookies and milk for Santa. Problem is…we’re Jewish.
Here’s how it went down.
I was raised in a household that was one part free-loving hippie, one part Jewish, one part academic and one part art rebel. My wife was raised Jewish, but celebrated Christmas, out of respect for her Roman Catholic dad…and her chance to double down on presents.
Today, as parents, we are both spiritual people and value many of the common teachings of many faiths on compassion and oneness, and we’d consider ourselves Jewish, but we’re not overtly “religious” by any means.
And, here’s where it gets kind of tricky…and where I’d love the benefit of your input.
At 7 years old, my daughter’s friends who celebrate Christmas all believe in Santa. And, this time of year, my daughter has seen all of the television specials about Santa’s gift giving process and discussed the details, logistics and elven procedures at length with her friends.
Probably because Santa has become such a large part of Americana, whenever the legend is told, it’s never uttered, “Santa only gives gifts to kids who’s religion centers around Christ.” It’s always that Santa keeps a list of kids, every kid in the world and gives gifts to all. As far as I can tell, nowhere does the mythology have Santa discriminating against kids of other faiths, the deciding factor is always naughty or nice.
Now, my daughter is a good kid, in fact her and her friends all made hope chests filled with gifts to give to kids living in transitional shelters for the holidays. So, when my daughter, who knows she is Jewish, but also celebrates Christmas in “honor” of her grampa and has many friends who believe devoutly in Santa and knows Santa’s rules asks if she can leave cookies and milk out for Santa, I am stumped.
My first instinct is to say, “no, of course not. We don’t celebrate Christmas.”
But then, I realize, in a way we do. Plus, according to popular belief, Santa is about “all” kids, he doesn’t ride around in his sleigh skipping the houses of kids of faiths he doesn’t vibe with. And, claiming he did would bring up a whole host of discrimination issues I really didn’t want to get into.
So, my next instinct is to just bust the whole Santa myth…
But that means crushing a cherished fable and busting it not only for my daughter, but for her friends, too, who still believe in Santa with every fiber of their being. Not so sure my little one could keep it to herself and, even if she could, it would cause some unease between her and her friends (I still remember those conversations). Don’t want to go down that road quite yet.
So, there I was, Christmas eve, lighting the candles on our Menorah, giving gifts for Chanukah…then setting out milk and cookies with my wife and daughter for Santa.
And, I have to tell you, while I love to celebrate with my family. And, I love to give gifts…
This is seriously confusing.
So, what do you guys think? Beyond the whole commercialization of the holidays stuff. I know that’s a whole different conversation.
With so many mixed families and blurred traditions, have you encountered similar issues? Do you know people who have? How would navigate these waters?
Would love to know your thoughts.
PS – Whatever your faith or beliefs, please accept my wishes for a wonderful, loving, peaceful, compassionate, successful holiday season and year ahead.
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