Santa Got Run Over by a Dreidel

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By Sugar Mama

My mom married my stepdad when I was 4.

We called him Dr. Burstein until the day they snuck away to Carson City to tie the knot. Then we called him Lee. What we didn’t call him was Jewish, which he was and still is today. But we never called ourselves Episcopalian, either. You just were what you were in those days, and that was that.

My kids, by contrast, asked me what religion they were pretty early on – at ages 3 and 5. Having a blended religious upbringing myself, combined with marrying their dad who was raised Catholic, I responded with a casual, “We’re Episcojewlics.”

“Oh,” they said. And that was that.

Before you bristle over my lack of proper religious instruction, consider yourself at their age, still in pull-ups, simply wanting to know if they were getting eight days of presents or just one. Religious distinction as it applied to anything other than the calendar was too ambiguous a concept for them on a Saturday afternoon.

Since then, of course, they’ve grown older, can tie their own shoes, and have begun to make their own choices regarding their faith. And at 6 and 9, they’re still Episcojewlics as far as I can tell. With my mother, they go to an Episcopal service on Easter. With my husband’s mother, they go to Mass on Christmas Eve. And with me, they go wherever I’m invited.

We pulled out our motley assortment of holiday decorations this weekend, which includes a luminous lawn Santa, attached to a larger-than-life Rudolph.

I noticed while backing out of the driveway last night that Rudolph’s nose wasn’t lighted – a real Christmas buzz kill when you go to such lengths. But as I got out of the car to investigate, I saw that one of my sons had replaced the bulb nose with a dreidel.

Is this blasphemous? I panicked, wondering how many neighbors I had offended. Should I remove it?

My answer to both questions was a resounding “No.” Because if the lawn were my church, then my son is its chaplain, cultivating the very earth that makes this season so bright: An earth yearning for peace.

Merry Hanukkah, Newport Beach, and a Happy New Year.

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