As I’ve mentioned a few times, our tiny, 4,800-square-foot lot is bursting with trees. While a couple of the original 36 died over the last five years, most are still with us. We suspect the one planted smack in the middle of our front yard was a “live” Christmas tree, because old lights draped its needle-clad limbs.
In the last few years, the tree, which I believe is a blue spruce, has grown considerably. What makes our yard particularly odd are the large waxy leaves of a 15-foot tropical schefflera growing just behind a tree that looks best covered in snow.
But in a way, these two wildly contrasting trees illustrate our holiday season this year. After all, Christmas and Hanukkah rarely coalesce on the calendar in such dramatic fashion.
And while my wife and I are both Jewish, at least culturally, Seth goes to a Jewish preschool filled with children from mixed marriages. When I picked him up from preschool on Wednesday, several of the kids had Christmas cookies packed in with their lunch.
At the other end of the spectrum, a Mormon colleague of mine is married to a Catholic. But because they live in a suburb far more Jewish than our own, their son brought home a marshmallow menorah he made in school.
On Christmas Eve, we’re taking Seth to a neighbor’s party in which Santa is shouting “Ho! Ho! Ho! Merry Christmas” on the e-vite we received. But on Christmas Day, we’re taking Seth to the our decidedly Christian town’s Menorah lighting, which is sponsored by the Chabad.
We have “Hanukkah” lights hanging in our living room and numerous presents wrapped in the holiday’s traditional blue and sliver paper. We receive as many Christmas cards each year as those that mention Hanukkah.
While many fret about the dilution of Jewish traditions, I don’t see this blending as a bad thing. As our cultures become more common, it is easier to communicate across lines of hatred and mistrust. Diametrically opposed cultures eventually hurt each other.
Our children understand this better than many adults. Seth and Lael do not differentiate their behavior in any way, whether they’re playing with a Christian, Muslim or fellow Jew. I hope they never do. This, to me, inspires hope and is the best holiday present I can think of.
I wish everyone a safe and happy holidays.