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My Jewish Husband Decorated the Christmas Tree Without Me

Photograph by Getty Images

My husband and I do a great job navigating our mixed-faith household. He handles the Passover dinners and Hanukkah celebrations, while I manage Easter and Christmas festivities. We've existed in harmony for half a decade, each of us staking claims to the cultural and familial traditions that matter most to us. This year, it should have been easier than ever to run our holiday fiefdoms, because Hanukkah ended in early December, which meant that the torch was passed to me to infuse our house with Christmas cheer for the remainder of the month.

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The plan was simple: As a family, we would pick out a Christmas tree, and then spend a cozy Saturday evening decorating it with ornaments and mementos I'd collected from trips around the world. I thought of myself as the CEO of Christmas for my household—I was going to run the holiday with good food, good cheer and a fragrant Douglas fir.

I don't light the menorah without my husband, nor do I fry latkes when he's still at work.

You can imagine my utter shock and devastation when I arrived at my house on the appointed evening, bursting with holiday spirits and energy, to find that my husband and children had already decorated the tree while I was stuck in traffic. Let me give you a visual: my young daughter greets me the door, eyes sparkling from joy at the great job they'd done, only to grow confused as I, upon seeing the tree—my tree—decorated in my absence, burst into sobs. There hung my Russian ornaments and the little baubles I bought in India years ago. I stared at them through tears while trying to master my emotions, which were a very un-cheery mixture of hurt and rage.

What followed, I am not proud of. No CEO should throw a tantrum like I did. In my defense, I was hurt and felt left out. I mean, after all, I don't light the menorah without my husband, nor do I fry latkes when he's still at work. I take a backseat during Hanukkah—I am the novice, the learner, the uninitiated. In return, I get to be the expert on all things stemming from Christ, including Christmas tree decorating, however removed that practice is from actual Christian dogma.

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Of course, my husband didn't know what decorating the tree as a family meant to me. His cells aren't filled with over 35 years of memories of stringing the lights and affixing the ornaments just right. He thought it was just "something that had to get done," not an event in and of itself. As Christmas CEO, I must take partial responsibility for not communicating my vision for our tree. He's offered to undecorate it so we can have a redo next weekend, but I declined that offer. I have to live with my marred memories of this year's tree decorating and strive to do better next year. I'm slowly making peace with it, though I still feel misty-eyed when I look at our beautiful tree.

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