An Inter-Faith Holiday
I was raised Catholic and my husband is Jewish and when it came time to marry, we just couldn’t give up our family holidays! We had such fond memories of the way we were raised with these celebrations, that we wanted to carry on the traditions. Now that we have children, we are even more interested in these special times and not abandoning a one!
So what did we decide to do? Celebrate all of the holidays and show appreciation for what they are all about! Some people might think we’re nutty when they see our mantle decorated with a menorah and stockings, but we felt it was important for the kids to understand their heritage and to appreciate that their mom and dad have a respect for each other’s backgrounds, even if they are different. It’s a chance for us to teach tolerance and understanding, and to welcome others into our home, without discrimination.
This was pretty easy for us, because in our house, the holidays were really about the traditions anyone could enjoy, like decorating the house, playing holiday music, giving gifts to each other and to those in need, baking cookies and of course, inviting friends and relatives over to break bread. Most of all, the holidays for us are about the food! Food plays such an important role in the holiday table as certain dishes carry with them stories that get passed through the generations.
Growing up in my house, we would celebrate Christmas Eve at one family member’s house, go to Midnight Mass and then celebrate Christmas at another relative’s house. I always loved Midnight Mass because that meant when I got home, it was already Christmas so I could open one gift! Many Italians celebrate Christmas Eve with a feast of seven fishes. Here’s Rachael Ray’s take on the seven fishes Christmas Eve meal-Cippino. For a Christmas day meal, you can’t beat her Christmas Pasta -it is so hearty and delicious!
As for the Jewish holiday foods, my husband would always make his mother’s brisket recipe. Check out our Hanukkah page for other traditional recipes. Being a bit of a baker myself, I was thrilled to learn (and then to eat) how to bake fresh Challah bread and to make Hammantaschen (for Purim) and Rugelach cookies. They were so easy and different from the Italian breads and cookies I knew.
I find it really fun adapting these new holiday ideas like lighting a candle in our menorah each night with my children and hiding gelt for the kids to find. Similarly, it was really heartwarming for me to find my husband outside one night, shaking a set of bells under my daughter’s window so she could think it was Santa and his reindeer passing by-I couldn’t help but laugh as she totally bought into it!
So for all the holiday lessons we try to recall this year, the most important one we will remember is the lesson of love and respect and how grateful we are to have our happy and overly festive home!
-Last Minute Lady