Choosing Not to Choose
The holidays have always been my favorite time of year. My mom is Christian and my dad is Jewish, so we celebrate eight days of Hanukkah and throw a big Christmas party. We light our golden menorah and make gingerbread houses, and we decorate every room with blue and white candles and red and green lights.
For a school project this year, my class had to give a presentation about our holiday traditions. Everyone was so excited to share, and as we all started talking about what our presentations would be like, I realized that I was the only one with two different sets of traditions. What if my classmates didn’t understand my family and what we celebrated? I love to stand out and be a leader, but this felt different. I started to wonder if I should choose just one faith and its traditions to present to my class.
I immersed myself in each faith. I read the Bible and the Torah and studied the history of each religion. I read about the role that girls played in each one, and I’d close my eyes and try to figure out which one was most important to me. Which one would best represent my family and me to my classmates?
“I’ll have a decision by the weekend,” I told myself a week before the presentation. But no matter how hard I studied the stories and analyzed the traditions, I couldn’t come to a conclusion. So I explained to my parents my dilemma: everyone in class has one specific religion and set of holiday traditions, and I thought that I should choose one, too.
They listened intently, and then my mom asked, “What about each holiday is special to you?”
“Lighting the menorah as a family,” I said. “And your latkes, Mom!”
She nodded in agreement.
“And I love decorating our tree and picking out the perfect present to give to each other on Christmas morning.”
“What else?” my dad asked.
“I like that having two faiths makes our traditions really fun and unique and how close they keep us as a family,” I continued.
“Well, I think you’ve found your choice,” my mom smiled.
“Your tradition is having two traditions, Luna,” my dad explained. “They’re both a part of you and what makes us so special. You don’t need to pick one because the way we mix them is special just for us, just like no two families celebrate either Hanukkah or Christmas the exact same way.”
The day before the presentation, on the first night of Hanukkah, blue lights twinkled on our green tree. A single white candle, lit on the menorah, dripped onto our mantle. The advent calendar with the little pieces of chocolate sparkled on the wall. Nothing matched, but it was a perfectly beautiful mix. It didn’t matter that it didn’t match or didn’t fit neatly into one religion or the other—because it was ours.
Even though the stories of each faith are different, the messages aren’t. Christmas and Hanukkah are about hope and perseverance. Both faiths encourage me to choose kindness and strength and teach me how to be there for the people I love. As my family and I snuggled together on the couch, I knew that I’d made the right choice by not choosing. This is exactly who I am supposed to be.