Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Advent of a Jew

Hello. My name is Inga and I am a Jew. Or, one of "those Jews who, while not practicing Judaism as a religion, still identify themselves as Jewish by virtue of their family's Jewish descent and their own cultural and historical identification with the Jewish people." Suffice it to say that, sadly, I have a limited knowledge of my people's religious traditions, and, instead, grew up celebrating - in a purely secular fashion! - the multitude of Christian holidays. My mom grew up in a secular Jewish, socialist home, wistfully observing her gentile friends' yuletide festivities. Her family didn't even celebrate the Jewish holidays. So, we got the Christmas tree, instead of the menorah. Here's last year's:

A peek at our tree

I would love to celebrate all of the holidays, and to embrace both aspects of my heritage, but, not having grown up with the traditions, I find it difficult incorporating this into our lives. It is so much easier to follow the path that has been lain down than to forge a new trail. Two years ago I did hold a Passover seder and it was extremely intricate and time-consuming to execute. I enjoyed it, but swore I would never do it again! Perhaps not the best celebration to start with. . .

Our token tributes to our maternal ancestors were the Hanukkah gelt in our Christmas stockings (oy vey!) and the gold Stars of David we hung on our tree. Those lovely stars - painted yellow, with our names written on them - were my favorite ornaments, but fell apart many years ago. This year I made new Stars of David for our Christmas tree, so my son can enjoy this same tradition. And we're lighting the menorah! I'd love to incorporate more traditions, but for now, at least, I have these silvered beauties:

Star of David

On my paternal side, my Swedish heritage is dominant. My son has the traditional, Scandinavian chocolate advent calendar that I had when I was little - lovely picture of Santa bringing joy to all and delicious chocolate shapes hidden behind numbered windows. I have a nostalgic fondness for these calendars and he seems to share my liking, as the first thing he says upon waking is "can I have my chocolate?" Still, last year I saw all these wonderful crafty advent calendars, and swore I was going to make one this year. No such luck. I am not known for planning ahead and I am always over-ambitious!

So, I've been sitting around, looking at this year's crop of crafty cuteness and bemoaning my shortcomings, when, lo and behold, I stumbled across Bella Dia's wonderful idea of a book/activity advent calendar. We're a few days late in starting, but no matter. I can get the books from the library and just start with whichever book/activity strikes our fancy. It's a wonderful idea - and Day One is all-inclusive!

Day 5 of Advent, Day 1 of Hanukkah:


Or, check out wish jar's list of ten things to do instead of shopping for more inspiration on how to spend whatever free time you have during the holidays.

Not quite sure where gingerbread houses fall in the Christian-Jewish spectrum, but we think they're fabulous! Especially, when you can buy a real Swedish house for only $4.99 (NOT the $8.50 noted in the link) and use up all the candy that's been sitting around since LAST Halloween. . .