April 20, 2009

easter for everyone

People tend to have strong opinions about whether or not it’s okay for kids who are being raised as Jews to celebrate holidays such as Easter and Christmas.  For many, not celebrating these holidays is a matter of cultural pride.  I would argue that non-religious aspects of these holidays have become a part of American culture and that we should embrace these fun traditions just as we would our own.

That said, this year Easter came and went without my 18-month-old daughter Zoe even noticing.  Yet, next year, when she learns about Easter in school, I feel strongly that she should partake in egg coloring, chocolate bunnies, egg hunts and whatever else one does on Easter (with the exception of going to church).  I did these things as a child but I do remember certain relatives and friends reacting with shock and disapproval when they heard this.  And we all have that place where we draw the line.  My mom was happy to decorate eggs with me and let me hang a stocking for Santa but looked at our friends’ yearly Christmas tree with disapproval.  I would imagine that over the years we will experience some negative reactions as well.

There seems to be a widespread idea that Jewish kids feel left out and sad around the time of these holidays because they don’t partake in the fun.  I think for the most part this is a huge myth.  Maybe there are some kids that feel this way but generally I don’t think that for most it is really that big of a deal.  So my decision to introduce these traditions to Zoe is not because I don’t want her to feel left out when her peers are painting eggs or hanging stockings.  Rather, I think any sort of festivity is worth joining in on.  Why miss out on anything?  After all, in our family we also love to celebrate the Hindu festivals of Holi and Diwali and any other cultural tradition we can get our hands on.

Comments

  1. p.a says:

    i completely agree with you. i am a first generation indian american. my parents are very religious and they taught us about all the hindu holidays and we did celebrate them as children. however it was mostly private with prayers at home and within the indian community. the actual holiday would fall on a schoolday and we never felt that they were “fun”. we just got to eat good food and get new stuff, mainly clothes.

    we were allowed to celebrate christmas with the baking, the tree and the presents. and we loved it. it didn’t make me become christian, i mean we didn’t go to church but we did sing christmas songs, exchange presents and decorate. but celebrating the holiday while having no school at the same time allowed us to enjoy the holiday.

    now that i have children i see how wise it was that my parents did this. celebrating christmas did not diminish us by any means. it only helped us participate with our community and in being american. nobody misinterpreted our actions as anything more or anything less. i mean i never was mistaken for being christian or being less of a hindu.

    and to that end – i have a lot of malaysian friends. and in malaysia, other than the indigenous malays, the dominant cultures are indian and chinese. and in malaysia, each ethnic group has two national holidays that they celebrate – and they are official, there is no school and everyone participates. no one gets confused about which religion they are celebrating. in fact it streghthens the understanding between the communities as the food, the festivities and the rituals become common knowledge whether it be chinese new year or diwali or some other festival. and this is in a country where the offical religion is islam.

    i think in america, the dominant religious culture is christian, and as minority religions people may feel like they need to advocate for themselves. but the reality is a lot of what goes on at christmas and easter is part of the popular culture. and to be honest there aren’t a lot of countries in the world which would allow you to partake in their “religious holidays”. some would even take offense.