Tomorrow night, there's a Couchsurfing Christmas dinner. Argentinians are with their families and don't seem to be around so much these days, but there are a lot of us others floating about.
Originally, I offered our place for the dinner, but when it seemed like more than 20 people were coming, the venue was switched to elsewhere. Now it's at Dan's place, and I'm doing what I can to help him organize.
Now it looks like it could be upwards of 50 people. This should be a lot of fun.
For me, this Christmas dinner is about meeting new people and spending time with other travelers who are away from home on a day they would normally be with family and friends. It's not just about the particular holiday.
But what about Lila? How does she see all of this?
I know I'm Jewish and it has always been such a part of my identity that I don't think twice about it. I know at least a few of my family members are worried that Lila will not be brought up properly Jewish. And if they want her to be Orthodox, then no, she will not be properly Jewish. I do, though, want her to know that she is Jewish, know the holidays, learn Hebrew, and have some idea of Jewish History.
I also want her to be able to go to a Christmas party, wish someone an Eid Mubarak or experience a Hindu wedding and not feel like she's doing something wrong. In fact, I hope she would want to know about other people's traditions, holidays and enjoy the celebration.
A few months ago, though, Lila got very upset when we told her she's Jewish.
"No," she shouted. "I'm not Jewish. Not Jewish." She stomped her feet and left I shocked. "What was that?" we asked ourselves. The first thought that we never wanted our families to hear her say these things, because they would most certainly blame it on us. That was fall out I did not need.
But I don't think either of us are anti-Jewish nor do i believe we have passed that message onto Lila. It did make me wonder who in her life portrayed "jewish" as something bad. Then again, with a child of four years old, you never know how connections come together in their growing brains.
So how to deal with this Judaism issue? I don't want her to think I'm upset with her for not seeming to want to be Jewish. Because, really, I'm not even sure what it means to her to be Jewish. Then add to this, the constant travel? It's not easy. It's a priority to meet families with children because I want to make sure Lila doesn't spend all her time with adults, entertaining herself. But we rarely meet other Jewish families.
Much of our Judaism comes when we spend time with family and close friends. We light Chanuka candles with the cousins. Last Rosh Hashana we spent with Ken in Buffalo. Succot was with Ken, Rachel and finally my parents in Atlanta. We spend shabbat with friends in NY, with my parents, with Noah's sisters. And we do as much as we can on our own. I do have to admit, though, what we do on our own is a bare minimum, particularly when finding housing or transportation to the next city is on our minds.
This year, on the first night of Chanuka, we tried going to the Chabad chanuka lighting. When we arrived, we found nothing but an enormous chanukiya with the shamash and one light already lit. And crickets chirping.
So yesterday, when Lila asked me "When will Christmas be here," I started to worry about this again, because she hasn't asked a word about Chanuka.
What will we do?
We'll still go to this Christmas dinner, because it's important to have community wherever you are. But to make a point for Lila, we bought the makings of our own chanukiyah and will bring it along and light it, so we can all celebrate together, all of us, all the holidays. Everyone is welcome.