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As a Christmas-loving Jew, I
felt a secret thrill when I married a nice Catholic boy. At last, I had an
excuse to festoon my home with boughs of fragrant evergreen, to put up an
actual Christmas tree.
My husband, on the other hand,
had mixed feelings. Though Stephen is Catholic, he’s about as lapsed as lapsed
can be; when we met he hadn’t had a tree in his apartment for years. But I
cajoled and promised to craft interfaith decorations, and eventually he agreed.
For our first few years together, we’d erect a small tree and turn it into the
most secular, homespun symbol possible. Our topper: a Jewish star made from
But when I got pregnant, that
decision took on a greater significance. We agreed before we got married that
we’d raise our children Jewish—I grew up more religious than Stephen did, and I
still feel a pretty deep connection to Judaism. With an actual kid in the
picture, having a Christmas tree felt wrong. Wouldn’t it confuse him? Wasn’t it
sending mixed signals? We packed away our paper chains and Magen David topper and kept our home Hanukkah-focused. Santa still
found our little boy every year, but at his grandparents’, where we’d celebrate
Part of me wants to rush out and buy gold paper for the new topper, to turn that into our new family tradition.
That’s worked pretty well for
us. We let him believe in Santa—we didn’t want him to spill the beans to his
Catholic cousins. (At 8 years old, he now seems to be playing along with
the ruse more than actually believing.) Amazingly, he never questioned why his
Jewish cousins had to miss out. But lately he’s been asking for a Christmas
tree. Begging for one, even a tiny potted shrub to put on top of his dresser.
And I’m not sure why, but I’m ready to say yes.
Yesterday I broached the
subject with my husband and discovered he’d been getting the hard sell from
junior, too. Kiddo’s best friend is also interfaith and he’s got a tree, so why can’t we? As much as I hate to feel swayed
by peer pressure, the old chestnut about how different families have different
traditions seemed lame. When I was a kid, I was sooo jealous of my interfaith friends,
who got to have eight nights of Hanukkah plus a Christmas tree. Our son already
celebrates both holidays. Maybe we should use our combined faiths to create
some new traditions for our home.
We agreed that Stephen would
pick up a small potted tree on his way home last night. I pulled out the
battered, dusty box of decorations—the paper chain I made years ago is still in
there, but the topper seems to have vanished. "Good," I thought. "An excuse to
craft a new one with kiddo."
In the evening Stephen sent
texts, updating me on his quest. I got my camera ready to capture the look of
delight on junior’s face when he saw the surprise. And then the phone rang: It
was my husband. He’d found a store selling the potted mini-trees, but they were
$40 and clearly intended to be transferred to the ground after the holidays. We
live in an apartment. They weren’t really suitable for what we’d been
I re-stowed the decorations and took comfort in the fact that I hadn’t told our son about the plan. He
wouldn’t be disappointed, though I certainly was.
Now we’re back to square one,
debating whether or not to go all-in and get a real-deal tree. Part of me wants
to rush out and buy gold paper for the new topper, to turn that into our new
family tradition, but then I wonder if last night’s bust was some kind of sign.