Remember that half-Hanukkah/half-Christmas card from Monday? One of the reasons I found it so excellent is how perfectly corresponds to my own situation. This year, my Jewish partner and I are heading to my parents’ house to celebrate our first Christmas together. But not only is it our first December 25th together, it’s also his first Christmas ever. Period.
Some of you might remember Trevor from my “On Dating With PTSD” piece I wrote over the summer, but here’s a quick rundown of our relationship:
- We were friends in college.
- I left California and came to NYC, but a year later, we started chatting over Skype after he congratulated me on an article of mine.
- We went on long-distance dates, got all sorts of emotional, he flew out here and we started dating.
- He grew up strictly Modern Orthodox Jewish and I grew up vaguely Methodist (so vague, it’s like seeing religion through condensed milk).
The first three bullet points are a-okay! That last one is also a-okay, but it has caused some conflict. I don’t want to bore you all by going too deep into our specific relationship stuff, but instead focus on the holiday issue at hand: this is his first ever Christmas and I am so afraid of ruining it.
Basically, he grew up in an almost exclusively Jewish community in London. He had all Jewish friends, went to a Jewish school, dated Jewish girls, and went to temple. He keeps kosher–something I honestly didn’t know too much about before dating him–and fasts on certain Jewish holidays. I, on the other hand, can’t remember the last time I was in a church with my family save for my vocal recitals and choir concerts, and we certainly don’t do much praying.
We have a really healthy, communicative relationship (one of my first!) and so I don’t feel uncomfortable discussing these concerns and insecurities with him. On occasion–last night, in fact–I bombard him with dozens of questions about Judaism because I want to understand more about his life and his Jewish identity, just as he asks me about my family, my background, my beliefs and everything else that makes up my identity. I know I can ask him about everything from how to pronounce his middle name properly to why some people wear kippahs and some people do not. And he says he enjoys when I ask, so I don’t feel annoying throwing tons of inquiries his way, which is wonderful and has helped me learn so much more about Judaism.
While about half my college friends were members of or affiliated with a Jewish fraternity, and many of my friends in high school were Jewish, just about every one of them, to my knowledge, is a Reform Jew. I never really knew much about Judaism itself, but I do know that his religion has played a large part in who he is, so I have been stressed out about because I don’t want to force my beliefs (i.e. gingerbread is delicious and decorating trees is sort of fun if you’re tipsy) on him, nor make him uncomfortable with the holiday. As I said, my own family is not particularly religious, but we do celebrate Christmas and do a lot of the traditional American celebratory activities, many of which have religious basis despite being labeled by many as secular (a label I find incorrect).
I decided to do an awkward Skype interview in order to determine what’s fair game and what’s off-limits.