I've talked around it the past few years, but it's occurred to me on this holiday season that I should be more explicit about how religious denominations impact our parenting choices, and what that means for the holidays.
So here goes.
In short: We're raising G. to be a science-loving, rational, creative-spirited, humanist Jew. Who happens to have a Christmas tree decked with robots.
Does that mean you try to make Chanukah bigger, to outshine Christmas?
We don't try to do Chanukah bigger. It's a fairly minor - if often lovely - holiday in the Jewish calendar, and the whole gift-giving frenzy is an invention by American Jewish refugees who wanted to fit in. Not that it's a bad thing. But you just can't compete with the dominant religious holiday in your environment. It's pervasive.
Example: While eating shrimp dumpling soup in Chinatown tonight (a quick meal before the Solstice parade), G started singing along to the music playing in the restaurant. "Santa Claus is coming to town". He knows all the words and I didn't teach him. But I don't really mind - mostly I'm glad he's diversified from the incessant Jingle Bells refrain of 2009.
Speaking of Santa, what are you doing about that?
We're not doing Santa. But we still haven't figured out how to deal with that. We don't want him to ruin Santa for the other kids (tho he already told his BFF that St. Nick is a ruse. oops), but we also don't want to weave this odd story that Santa simply doesn't come to Jewish kids. If you have any ideas, let me know!
So why the tree? Aren't you afraid that will confuse him?
I could say something trite about pagan symbols, but really, it's just a nice-smelling, pretty object we can hang our robots and other sentimental tzatchkes on. I'm pretty sure this won't be the worst example of cognitive dissonance he'll have to endure in his childhood.
Will you teach him the true meaning behind Christmas?
Like the story of Jesus' birth? Totally! We want him to know about as many religions as possible, from mythologies to histories to festivals. And to respect them all.
So basically, you are doing both religions, and letting him pick a faith when he gets older.
Nope. We are raising him to be Jewish. Unambiguously Jewish. So he can say "these are my people" and "this is my holiday" without a lilt of hesitation. Not to get too into it (though I could!), but I hope that in addition to keeping alive cultural identity, this 'belonging to a tribe' will be a key to him understanding history and the world around him.
But I hope he doesn't pick a faith. Cuz I guess we're raising him to be an Atheist Jew. Which sounds confusing, and I don't mean to offend, but I would be horrified if he became a subservient devotee to some religious figure/institution. I want him to ask questions. Fearlessly. And to greet the world with an open, compassionate heart.