I’m Protestant, my husband’s family is Catholic, my stepfamily is Jewish, and my kids are blessed.
Growing up in my small town there was no diversity. Not ethnically or religiously. Unless of course, you consider the differences between the Baptist churches versus the Church of Christ my grandparents attended versus the non-denominational church I attended during my formative years. The very few people who were Catholic had to drive to “the city” to attend their respective churches. I knew of one girl who was a Jehovah’s Witness.
And that was it, folks.
One of my best friends was Catholic, but it wasn’t until I started dating my husband that I ever attended a service. To be honest, I was a bit afraid of experiencing a different religion. The first few times I attended church with my husband it was a bit of a culture shock to me. I wasn’t used to people reciting the same prayers in unison, doing hand motions at the same time, or all of the ritualistic behaviors that went along with it (priests and deacons in robes, bejeweled crosses, and giant Bibles). Also, all the stand-up, sit down, take a sip of wine along with the transubstantiated body of Christ placed on your tongue, shake hands with your fellow parishioners, and kneeling on a kneeler was overwhelming, to say the least.
Over the years, I have been to Midnight Christmas masses and I’ve inhaled more incense fumes than all the hippies at Woodstock combined. I’ve had burnt palm leaf ashes rubbed into the shape of crosses on my forehead more than once. Years after my first Catholic experience, our daughter was christened as a baby and was anointed in so much cinnamon-scented oil I considered putting a string on her diaper so I could hang her from my rearview mirror as an adorable air freshener. I’m not kidding. She was delightfully fragrant and quite greasy.
When I was 21, my mom married a Jewish man and I got a special glimpse into Judaism that I never expected I’d get to have. There were not any Jewish people at my school, so this was very exciting and new for me. I got to attend my step-sister’s Bat Mitzvah and I was super jealous we didn’t have an equivalent in Christianity. A huge birthday party, reading from the Torah, a deejay, and snow cones? I could really get behind all of that! And how fun is the Hava Nagila chair dance?!
Since then, I’ve attended a Jewish wedding, sat in on a Shiva, lit candles for Hanukkah, and attended several Passover Seders.
This year my 7-year-old daughter attended Seder with me and my family. She and her papa had been practicing some of the Hebrew recitations and she was super jazzed to get to be a part of the ceremony. When it came time to read at our table, she read aloud a special section since she was the youngest one there (that could read). She nailed all of the difficult words in front of a large group of people. I was so very proud of her bravery and thankful for her to get to be involved in a religious tradition different than our own. She later got to hunt for the afikoman with another little girl, and they happily shared their prize money.
Last spring, my daughter and son hunted Easter eggs in our yard and excitedly examined the spoils the Easter bunny brought them while their daddy and his Catholic family celebrate the end of Lent with a tasty dinner.
I think it is absolutely fantastic that my kids get to grow up experiencing so much more of the world than I did when I was younger. I love that they don’t have to wait until college to be around people who are beautifully and wonderfully different than they are and are able to be enriched by these experiences.
Whether you set a chair out for Elijah, celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ, or just enjoy dyeing hard-boiled eggs and eating your weight in bunny-shaped chocolate, I hope you are able to enjoy yourselves and have a great time with loved ones this year!