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.

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