Tonight and tomorrow, Jews will descend on Chinese restaurants across the United States to honor the annual tradition of eating Chinese food on Christmas (most likely followed by a movie). I consider myself an observant Jew. I keep a kosher home. I dutifully power down my laptop and cell phone on Friday afternoon, just before sunset and take a break from technology for 25 hours. You can find me in synagogue for most holidays. I give tzedakah to Jewish causes (like JUF!) and volunteer with Jewish organizations. I just won't be eating at a Chinese restaurant on Christmas.
As many regular readers to my blog know, my wife is not Jewish, so we spend Christmas with her family. Even though my wife would not consider herself very religious, she still finds a connection with many Christmas traditions. Come December 25th, you are more likely to see me with eggnog than egg foo young, eating more Christmas cookies than fortune cookies. Every Christmas, I gather together with family and open presents around the Christmas tree. We all get stockings on Christmas morning. I have one too- because who wouldn't want an excuse to eat chocolate and candy for breakfast? Decorating is a big one too. She has a tree, a village, lights, a wreath and assorted snowmen paraphernalia.
I admit that it took me a while to come around to the idea that I could fully participate in all of this. It helped that my loving and patient wife eased coddled me. For example, one year she convinced her parents to cook Chinese food for Christmas dinner. Also when the village goes up, she always puts a Jewish star on the hall next door to the church. We affectionately refer to it as the Chabad house.
Over the years, I have come to understand that honoring her traditions does not mean that I must compromise mine. Celebrating Christmas with my wife and her family does not make me any less Jewish any more than eating matzah on Passover makes her more Jewish. More importantly, skipping my traditional Chinese food meal for her traditional Christmas dinner allows me to spend time with my wife when she is enjoying her most wonderful time of year.
One day we will have kids. They may never go to the movies on Christmas, but they will surely get a stocking. Who wouldn't want to spoil their kids with chocolate and candy for breakfast once a year?