Auntie A’s “Guide to the Holidays” November 2017

The holidays always present some challenges for most families. For some, each holiday the peacekeeping is just a matter of taking a deep breath and walking into the next room. After all, we do not choose our families and because of that tempered tolerance is necessary. These are people we are related to and we do love them but we certainly might not have chosen them to be a friend or like them. Nevertheless close quarters with people who have a memory of who you once were can create a pressure cooker of hot buttons that you should be prepared for and come to the event with your plan for a  strategic exit from an impeding disaster. But what happens when there’s more to it? What happens when someone close in the family dies? How do you navigate through the feelings of each family member now faced with celebrating at a time that makes them now sad? What are the new rules for raising children to be grateful and thankful as products of divorce? Two houses can be a devastating game changer on so many levels. Oh, and how do you teach children that are in a multi-faith home about rituals without steeping on the toes of the other parent or really getting into with the grand parents? Etiquette can only go so far in these circumstances where the situations fall outside of the normal bounds of what we know to do in such and such case scenarios. 
This year makes the 39th Christmas, birthday, Mother’s Day and you fill in the blank for the rest without my mother. As a child she was tragically killed in an auto train accident and the entire process of holidays changed forever. What was once a joyful time became a time where adults cried intermittently and bemoaned about the loss. Death does change etiquette protocol during the holidays, probably more than at any other time because it’s a family gathering and without family members its just plain difficult. Add to this the fact that each person comes to the table with a different set of coping skills and stages in their grieving. When grandma’s house was always the setting for Thanksgiving and she dies…now what? You have to change things up is what! Find a new fresh way to celebrate. Perhaps instead of having the traditional ham and sides that she cooked for at least a few years you choose a different menu. Give each person a chance to reset and recover. Then in time what you’ll do is find yourself bringing that loved one right back into the celebrations. You will start cooking their recipes and the very act of doing so in the kitchen will make you smile with memories. You’ll tell stories about them from holidays gone by and their memory will continue to live on within your family. As with most things… everything will be fine with TIME
When families decide that divorce is their solution there is a new normal for all children. Children are no longer creating Christmas under one roof with their mom and dad. When parents try to out do one another with gifts children see right through their shenanigans and it can really cause a unnecessary stress fest! Being creative with traditions and rituals is key and children will adapt avent calendar to the days they are with mom and the Elf activities at daddy’s place. On Christmas Eve, if the children are at your husband’s this year ask if you can Skype in and sing a carol with them. Be creative. What you should not do is give a gift and then require that it stay at your house and not go with the child. Try to communicate with each other and coordinate efforts for giving not competing! Working together as parents and reassuring the children that so many people love them is one of the best presents you can give them. Most importantly, choose to do something that requires no money. Drive around and check out the lights or make a meal together during their time off.  Time and attention and love is more important than anything you could give them under a tree! Children will remember those moments and you’ll be rewarded as years from now they will look back on their childhood unscathed as products from divorce.
Over 2.5 million families celebrate multiple holidays and rituals in their homes. More than one-third of all American Jews are married to Christians. Parents must decide how to navigate a menorah and a Christmas tree…Santa Claus and dreidels! One would hope that prior to making children, these families will have had multiple conversations about their faith, the ways they need and choose to profess it and their expectations for passing their faith onto the next generation. Will the children be raised essentially Jewish with a few extra rituals and celebrations that are clearly not a part of that faith? How confusing will this be as they grow and mature and will at some point need to decide for themselves what faith they want for themselves? If you are a faithful Christian are you ok with taking Christ purposefully out of Christmas? Should the children become exposed to both equally? and at what times? Each faith has a coming of age so to speak and this critical rite of passage in many respects defines a person. The decisions about what will be celebrated and acknowledged rituals are big decisions with lasting effects into adulthood. Each family must seriously contemplate how and what rituals will be celebrated and those that will not. The organization of all holidays in multi-faith households is a brave new world so to speak. Most importantly, for each family it will be different.

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