For many Jewish families, Christmas Day means quiet time at home
with good TV and a predictable trip to the movies followed by
Chinese food. But for Sharon and David Lieberman, a Jewish couple
who live in Northbrook with their two children, Christmas Day is
filled with good food and lots of good friends.
Several years ago, when the couple's now-5-year-old daughter was
a baby, they were invited to join their friends' Christmas
celebration. What started as a fun night together is now an annual
event and has grown to include the Liebermans' Hanukkah celebration
and another family's annual Easter egg hunt and lunch.
While some may crave the company of good friends during the
holidays, others see sharing their culture and holidays with
friends of different faiths as an enriching and eye-opening
experience for their children.
What has been most surprising for Sharon Lieberman, though, is
watching her kindergartner share with great pride her own family's
"For the kids, it's new foods, games, everything fun," she says.
"My daughter has such pride being able to teach and share her
holiday. Likewise, while she understands that Christmas and Easter
aren't our holidays, she loves learning about them."
Rabbi Karyn Kedar, of Congregation BJBE in Deerfield, says
friends might actually find more commonality than they expect.
"Religious traditions and rituals are an expression of our most
basic human desires," she says. "All faith traditions use light to
express the desire to banish the darkness of the soul; all faith
traditions require charitable giving to express the obligation to
give to those who suffer; and all faith traditions gather in
community to banish a sense of isolation."
Michelle Newman, whose family has been celebrating Hanukkah with
the Liebermans for the last several years, says her small children
are not the only ones learning from the experience.
"Having grown up on the East Coast in a small community with
little variety, it has been most surprising to discover new ways of
observing holidays through reflection, prayer, conversation and
celebration," Newman says.
The Rev. Melissa Earley of Northbrook United Methodist Church
says many members of her congregation share holidays and
significant life events with friends of other religions.
"Families who have been able to participate in traditions and
holidays with those of other faiths say they not only learn about
practices, which are different, but they also think more deeply
about their own faith," she says.
If you would like to share your holiday this year with friends
of a different faith, Earley offers some advice.
Briefly explain what the holiday celebrates and give an overview
of what will happen.
Think about all the details your guests won't know-what is
appropriate to wear, when it is appropriate to ask questions and
when that would interrupt the event.
If part of the ritual is in a foreign language, don't feel the
need to translate word for word. Instead, consider giving a one
sentence description of what is happening.
For those families like the Liebermans and Newmans, who will
share traditions and rituals with others, Kedar advises, "Leave
your world, just for a moment, and enter into the sounds and sights
of another religion's expression of hope, of the quest for meaning,
of the yearning for purpose and you will be enriched."
Elizabeth Abrams is a mom and freelance writer living in Northbrook
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