My cross, his dreidel

When I, a Christian woman, married a Jewish man, I didn't know much about Judaism. One year at Christmas I bought a luminaria, a small tin church with holes pierced to let the candlelight through. It had two crosses on it.

"Do the crosses have to be there?" my husband asked. "They make me a little uncomfortable."

A bit surprised, I lifted the crosses off the steeple, wondering why my usually tolerant husband was making a fuss about two tiny crosses. It hadn't occurred to me that anyone would look at a cross differently than I did.

Like those in the story to the right, I had some things to learn.

I thought, well, OK, let's give Hanukkah some equal time here. I went to a store that sold Judaica and bought a menorah. We dutifully lighted the menorah each night of Hanukkah, but without reciting the prayers - because neither of us knew them.

"How can you be Jewish and not know the prayers?" I asked. I couldn't fathom that someone could just be born into a religion, without having to participate in some way. My husband e-mailed his sister, and got the words to the Hanukkah prayers. To that we added our own bit with readings from Psalms and from other inspiring writers.

The addition of a son has made us both more conscious of our beliefs and the kind of spiritual education we give him. As Decembers have come and gone, we've learned what's comfortable for our family. A tree, definitely, but not a 12-footer. Angels, stars, and snowmen, but not baby Jesus or Santa Claus. Christmas carols on the stereo but no caroling parties. And no crosses on luminaria.

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