Family traditions are a beautiful thing. They are the childhood joys that become some of your favourite memories. My family is a bit of a mixed bag, as are many of the families I know. In my family alone, we are part Canadian, Italian, Christian (both Catholic AND Protestant) and Jewish. You could say that for us the holidays aren’t exactly straightforward.
I grew up as in a small town, going to church on Sundays for most of my early life and then slowly slacking off until only entering church for major holidays and weddings. As such, Christmas has always reminded me of church but as I associate it more with celebrating friends and family and new relationships that I’ve created over the year.
My husband’s family is half-Jewish and half-Catholic which means that on his side alone, there’s a lot going on. He grew up celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas, both of which involve massive meals.
Raising our kids together, we aim to incorporate as much of our diverse backgrounds as possible. We do this so that our kids can have a better idea of where we (mommy and papà) come from while also trying to teach them that people and families are often made up of more than one “thing” (culture, religion, race, language, etc). We hope that by celebrating our similarities and differences, they will grow up to be open-minded individuals.
It’s not always easy to put it all together however! Christmas, for example, is celebrated differently in Canada than it is in Italy and so “compromise” is a running theme.
With so many overlapping events and traditions, it creates a situation ripe for confusion. How can we balance it all when our kids are so young?
Some of our best techniques involve many wonderful books that already do a great job of explaining the basics of both holidays to the kids. Particularly for me, as the Jewish faith is relatively new, these books are a great way for me to enter this new territory and start conversations. It does result in a somewhat superficial approach to the holidays but from my perspective the benefits of even starting the conversation are reason enough.
To dive deeper into the details of the holidays I turn to family and friends with more experience than me, including my husband. I participate enthusiastically and ask questions, hoping to show my kids that to be inquisitive is a good thing.
This year, we’ll celebrate Hanukkah with friends and family, lighting the candles every evening together. We’ll make our yearly Hanukkah cookies and find some chocolate gelt in the morning. When Christmas comes, we’ll spend the 24th with my husband’s family -celebrating with gifts on the 24th. Before we head out we’ll be sure to leave some milk, cookies and carrots for Santa and his reindeer. On the 25th, we’ll awake to a few gifts from Santa, left overnight while we sleep. A huge Turkey dinner with friends at noon will carry us through until Boxing Day and onwards to the New Year.
We’ve decided to seek out as many opportunities as possible to share and explore the differences in our family. To celebrate all the many diverse aspects that exist not only within our family but between our family and others. Many of us have conversations about how families come in different forms (single parents, two moms, grandparents, etc) but do we shy away from discussing different religions, ethnicities and races? What about cultural differences? In this particular day and age, where fear of others and confusion about religion are so prominent, isn’t it the perfect time to start sharing, learning and appreciating the differences that we have? We don’t need to go far to find them – you’re not required to have a crazy mix in your family to explore these themes with your little ones. Start small and learn together.
So, from our family to yours, we wish you a joyous and prosperous new year ahead full of happy moments and memorable traditions!