I’ll (Not) Be Home For Christmas

Category: Weekly Columns

This holiday season my wife and I will not both be home for Christmas. Instead we will celebrate our first year of marriage on separate continents.  As we are different races and religions, there are usually challenges we encounter at this time of year, so maybe being 7,000 miles apart will make it easier. We’ve actually resolved the big conundrum for me–the Christmas tree.

I don’t care if you call it a Hannukah bush or an ordinary tree; it is a Christmas tree, pure and simple.  It represents the birth of Christ and it’s not just a secular symbol.  But, it matters to my wife, so we resolved the issue by agreeing, like so many mixed religious couples, to celebrate both Christmas and Hannukah.  Since my boys were raised Jewish, and my younger son just became a Bar Mitzvah, it really isn’t an issue for me anymore.

Truly, it’s more to honor my wife, her background and her religion, versus a belief that it matters in our stage in life.  My boys have been raised Jewish, have completed the major ritual of becoming a Bar Mitzvah and are now old enough to choose their path in life, and to be able to enjoy both holidays without confusion.

I believe, strongly, that a new marriage with young kids that decides to celebrate both holidays will only confuse children and the ultimate result will likely be their rejection of both religions.  In our case, that is unlikely as my boys have had a distinctive Jewish upbringing and now, post Bar Mitzvah, can enjoy my wife’s holiday and its joys and traditions without their core values being challenged or confused.

Call me conciliatory or wimpy, I don’t care, but I think life is different in a second marriage when the kids have already been inculcated in one religion.  Exposure now to different traditions won’t hurt and it is inevitable in their daily life anyway.  My older son is dating a “gentile” as my mom would have said, and I think she’s a lovely girl.  My younger son’s best friends are mostly Asian, therefore not Jewish, and I don’t see any problem as they’re good kids, smart kids, and mostly as academic and wholesome as he is.

Wow, what a different world we live in since I was a kid.  My mother would ask me the last name of every friend I had, and especially any girl that I might’ve dated when I was old enough to date.  I didn’t realize why, at first, until I was older and understood that the last name was a clue to their religion.  Now, I ask my boys about their friend’s interests, their character, and their success at school.  When and if I meet them, I might notice then their racial difference or ask about their backgrounds.

Isn’t this the way it’s supposed to be?  I think so and I’m living proof of the diversity of the world today.  My ex-wife was half-Japanese and my second wife is 100% Chinese and Christian.  My boys are therefore, ¼ Japanese and, with my second wife’s background, completely confused about their identity.  Just kidding.  But, I do seriously think we represent what the future of the world will be like–a blended mix of race and religion with, I hope, respect for all our cultures.

I’m not sure where radical Islam fits into this future or our world today, but I’ll leave that hot potato political subject for the political commentators and writers.  I will just focus on the Judeo-Christian basis of America and the racial mix of my own family.  At least on that, I can speak with some authority and limit my rhetoric!

I’ve got completely off the track since this column is about how I will be spending my first wedding anniversary and this holiday season about 7,000 miles away from one of my sons and my wife.  She’s taking my recent Bar Mitzvah boy to Japan as his present for his substantial achievement in becoming a Bar Mitzvah and in honor of his heritage and his interest in manga (Japanese comic books and art).  I will be in the mountains, skiing, with my older son.

I guess you could say this is a very modern marriage in that we worked things out this way.  We set up the Christmas tree the first week in December and had the Hannukah menorahs ready to light the first week of Hannukah, which this year, didn’t overlap with Christmas at all.

We represent the diversity that we read about, that our schools and universities preach about, and that our future likely looks like. In this case I really like it plus feel very grateful and lucky for how our family has reconstituted itself. Even if we can’t both be home for Christmas.