This is the next in a series of guest posts on intermarried and mixed families. “Mixed” is not a theological state but an identity. And as our guest poster, Mia Rut, today shares, “mixed” need not be products of interfaith marriages, but Jews by choice who bring with them their previous heritage(s). It’s not as simple as the continuity idiots would suggest, “just convert” as if all the problems of multiple identities and outside influences would be over. It’s just not that stupidly simple, so listen up. — Kung Fu Jew
For the first 28 years of my life I faithfully celebrated Christmas – of which I have very fond memories. My family’s tree covered in homemade ornaments, stockings my great-Grandmother had made that were filled to the brim with candies and small gifts, the family nativity scene we set up each year and placed Baby Jesus in the manger on Christmas morning. We would feast on ham and cheese sandwiches, deli trays complete with black olives we ate off the tips of our fingers and of course endless varieties of Christmas cookies and dried fruit. My favorite part was at the end of the Christmas Eve service while the congregation held tiny white candles and sang ‘Silent Night’ by candlelight. Of course I believed in Santa Clause for a while and upheld the illusion for my younger sisters until they too were old enough to know better.
But I decided to become Jewish.  A decision, which by default one must give up the religious aspect of Christmas. But giving up Christmas meant a whole lot more than a church service I had elected not to partake in. There were sentimental traditions and activities that I am having a much more difficult time extracting myself from – because no matter what I have chosen for my life, my family is still Christian.
At first I was defiant, confident that it was justifiable to continue to gather together with my family at the end of December if I simply excused myself from any religious activities like going to church or listening to my sister read the nativity story. And perhaps not to rock the boat too much, I fully partook in the commercial aspect of exchanging gifts. But as I continued into my Jewish studies I decided I wanted to break from even the secular holiday – which meant I would not be with my family as my aunts, uncles, sisters, nephews and niece gathered around the Christmas tree.
I knew my decision to give up Christmas would be painful and confusing for my family, and that had never been my intention. I love and respect my family and appreciate the way my parents raised me, but I had to make decisions that was right for me. And that meant giving up the Christmas. I’m almost embarrassed to say what I did in lieu of the Christmas that first year, although I was invited to go out with friends for Chinese food and a movie, I instead went to the Matzo Ball on Christmas Eve. Promoted as the “Jewish Social Event of the year!” it was an appallingly gratuitous dance party apparently appealing to lecherous men happy to grind their bodies up to me as soon as I stepped away from my date and pushy vapid women wearing too much makeup and not enough clothes who didn’t feel the need to wait in line for anything. Something I will gladly only do once in my life.
However, the next morning I woke up on a snowless New York City Christmas morning. There was no magic or excitement that I had experienced as a child. Although the anticipation of seeing what Santa had left had been extinguished for me decades ago, but this year I would not see my nephews and niece’s excited faces as they saw their gifts waiting under the tree. In fact that morning could have been any other morning after a night out on the town except I could clearly picture what my family was likely to be doing.
My parents called later that afternoon, but they did not mention Christmas at all. I was very grateful although it was terribly hard for them. I’m not sure what we will do in the future, but I know that my celebration of Christmas will be different from now on. And what I really don’t know is if, God willing, I have a family of my own someday. My children will have Christian grandparents. How would we negotiate Christmas then?