A Wonderful 5th Day of Chanukah and Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating! And, still, Happy Chanukah to all who are celebrating!

December 24th and 25th have been wonderful. I have spent time with my 75 closest relatives over the past two days. The highlight was getting to see my adorable 1 year old nephew. Not everything related to Christmas went exactly as planned, but when do things related to family ever go as planned?

Last Thursday, December 22, my cousin had a beautiful baby boy a few weeks earlier than planned. The call that she was in labor came as a suprise and I quickly packed a bag and headed out of town. I am so thankful that both baby and mommy are doing well. The rush and excitement threw me off my planned course. I hadn’t packed enough clothes. I was going to miss Shabbat at my shul. I didn’t get a chance to bake cookies for my family. Either way, the weekend ended up being a good time spent with family. I didn’t go to shul, but I prayed services in the silence of my room in the evening and morning.

This was my first December 25th where I would completely identify as an outsider and not in anyway claim the holiday. Last Christmas, besides giving you my heart (reference to Wham song), I did not identify as a “believer” but none the less did not identify as an outsider. I think it was and still is very hard to distance myself from a tradition that is so part of my culture and family. Many of my cousins would agree saying that they largely don’t believe Roman Catholic doctorine or practice Catholicism, but they still (strongly) identify as Catholic. In the way that Catholicism has always functioned as more than just a religion for my family and Mexican culture parallels Judaism as more than just a religious belief.

This year, my parents respected my request for no gifts for the most part. It is a tradition for my mother to buy the whole family Christmas pajamas and I did receive winter themed pajamas but no green and red and not santas, elfs, or Christmas trees…only snow flakes and snow men.

Another great thing about this year’s Christmas was I had a new perspective on things. One of the greatest feelings was sitting to eat dinner, breakfast and lunch with my family. Eating as a family, especially all our meals, happens very rarely in my family. To have those moments of no cell phones, no t.v. and no computers was very meaningful and made me think of beautiful Shabbat dinners where family and friends are gathered together for the great company. I do not have family to gather with every Friday and Saturday for Shabbat meals, but having those moments on Christmas Eve and Day was just as meaningful to me.

I am moving away for graduate school in a few months and I don’t if I would be able to come visit my family for the “holidays.” My dad works shift work and usually is not off for any holidays. My sister is a doctor, so she often has to work holidays. Also, her husband and her alternate which side of the family they spend Christmas with each year. This not only means that this was the first Christmas where I can remember my immediate family all being together, but it is also probably the last for at least a while. The fact that we were all able to spend this time together was amazing, a true blessing, and I would not have missed it for the world. It is days like December 24th and 25th of 2011 when the family is together in shalom that the love, energy and presence of the Divine is strong enough to transcend time altogether. It was not the days themselves that made the moments holy; it was the moments themselves that made the days, for me, holy.

Chanukah

Happy Chanukah to anyone celebrating!

It has been a long time since my last post, because I was busy finishing up the semester. Now that I am on break, I am free to write about the many ideas I jotted down but lacked time to write out.

This is my first Chanukah. In the years past, I have made latkes with friends and observed others lighting their Chanukiah. This year, I am preparing my own Chanukah food (for a friend’s dinner party) and lighting my very own Chanukiah. This is very exciting, but at the same time lonely compared to other years. Usually after my last final I head to my parent’s home right away for the break. This year, I wanted to be able to spend more time at the synagogue, spend time with Jewish friends for the holiday, and have my conversion class still. The extra time in my quiet apartment has provided a much needed break after the chaos of the final weeks of classes. I have also had the chance to clean and work on graduate school applications. At the same time, my family is beginning to gather in my hometown and I am not there to enjoy the family moments. Tonight, my family is gathered together making dinner, and I am cooking for one. I enjoy the solitude but miss my family. I will be going home in a few days for Christmas, not to celebrate but to be with family. When that time comes, I know I will miss the peace and quiet of my apartment, but right now I just wish I was with family. Friends are amazing, but family is something different all together.

Christmas has been a difficult issue and will only be more difficult when the day actually comes. My religious family goes to mass several time on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. It is definitely the biggest day of the year, as it should be for Christians. I am not saying I have made the best decisions, but I will share what I have decided to do for Christmas and give an update after the holiday about how it went.

I am attending all family functions outside of Church on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, because this is important family time.

I will prepare kosher food to take to share with my family. This way, I can have kosher food and not upset anyone by having totally different food from everyone else.

I asked for all relatives and friends to not give me any gifts, because I not celebrating. If I do receive a gift, I will however be appreciative.

I am giving my family and friends Christmas gifts, because they are celebrating. Just because I no longer observe Christian holidays does not mean it isn’t very important for many people, including my family. I do not want to stop any of my family from enjoying what is their celebration.

I am taking my Chanukiah to my parent’s house when I visit for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. I will hopefully light the candles in the living room, since it is suppose to be public.

I am not quite sure about attending Church. It largely depends on how my parents are taking the holidays. As much of a change the conversion process is for me, it is just as hard (if not more) for them. I need to give them time to adjust, and I do not want to hurt them. Also, I am hoping to move to Israel for graduate school so this is my last Christmas with them. If I do end up attending one service, I will sit with a relative who will hopefully be more tolerant of my non-participation in the service.

Happy Holidays to everyone. 🙂

Craving a Cheeseburger

Shavua Tov (Good Week).

Shabbat has just ended a few hours ago, and I am thrust back into time amid the final weeks of school. Papers need to be written, and I have more test to study for than I care to think about. It is especially in weeks like these that Shabbat becomes an even more beautiful and necessary part of my life. Shabbat has become a sustaining act in my life, and I hope that it will remain one as I continue to learn how to better guard and remember Shabbat throughout my life.

Shabbat is sacred, but even on Friday night and Saturday, as I try to be holier and closer to God, I am just an ordinary human. I had a wonderful Shabbat yesterday/today, but after shul this morning I couldn’t help but crave some non-kosher food. I had lunch earlier at shul and had prepared food for Shabbat, but all the restaurants I passed kept calling my name. I began to fantasize about stopping in for a cheeseburger or really any food that I haven’t had in a long time.It has been 3 years since I last ate pork, and yet sometimes I just want some pork ribs. It is not only non-kosher food that I sometimes miss. There are many things I am giving up by converting to Judaism. Even on the holiest day, sometimes I just want to go out with friends or watch t.v.

I can fool myself into thinking that all these craving will go away when I become Jewish, but I know better. Being Jewish will not suddenly make me forget how good some non-kosher food is. What is more important is trying to keep the mitzvot (commandments), even when its easier not to. I am not yet obligated by the mitzvot, but I know that becoming Jewish is a process and I should try to adhere by the mitzvot already.

So… I came home after shul to read, nap, and eat a vegan bean burger that I prepared ahead of time.