18 December 2009

Interesting Composition

I bought the poster at the British Museum a few years ago while I was living in Cambridge; the Arabic calligraphy reads, "I love the flower that is slow to bloom." My mother contributed the Christmasy greens; in an old pagan ritual she's brought with her from East Prussia, she cuts branches from flowering shrubs and trees on St. Barbara's feast day to bring into the house so they'll bloom at midwinter. The menorahs are both gifts from the other grandparents.

And then I looked at them all together. I guess it sums up my very rambling family tree, though it probably misses a few of the branches.

I was raised more or less without religion, but in a nominally protestant Christian household, and converted to Judaism back in 1990. (Wow ... almost 20 years ago!) My family members include a bunch of WASPs, an Arabic uncle, a handful of African-American cousins and one Catholic one, some evangelical Christians, the occasional atheist, a raft of Germans, and a god-daughter adopted from China. In no particular order.

I've worried about bringing up my son with a strong Jewish identity among that profusion. But yesterday a little friend came over, and asked, "Do you celebrate Christmas?" I pretended not to listen with both ears wide open. His answer. "I celebrate Christmas with my grandparents, because they're Christian, but I'm Jewish."

So far, so good.