Monday, December 26, 2005
Happy Chrismahanukwanzakah - really!
Here's a story I've long wanted to read: a profile of a real family who blends the season's various holidays together for the simple reason that it reflects who they are. Meet the Balsoms, who celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa — this year, all at once:
"Welcome to Chrismahanukwanzakah," said David Balsom, whose blended family has celebrated Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa since he and his wife, Tasha, adopted their two children, both black, who are now teenagers. . . .
David, 52, producer of a classical music radio program, "From the Top," was raised as a Reform Jew. Tasha, 51, who runs a family day care, grew up as a Unitarian. Even though neither was particularly religious, they decided early in their relationship that they wanted to celebrate both of their heritages. When they adopted Leo and Mia, now 14 and 17, they added Kwanzaa to the mix.
"We're a very diverse family and it's important to us that we celebrate all the different elements that make us a family," David said. "In our transracial family, we felt an obligation to be as expansive in what we exposed our family to as we could be."
Their approach is high on levity and rather short on orthodoxy:
To the Balsoms, the holidays are more about culture than religion. To make their Christmas tree a more secular symbol, for example, a monkey sits at the top instead of a star.
Which is to say that Unitarianism is the closest thing to religion they're comfortable with:
Despite their mixed upbringing, the children identify mostly with Unitarianism, they said, attending a local church regularly and a special Christmas Eve candlelighting service in Cambridge. The story of Hanukkah? "All I know is the lights stayed lit for eight nights and it was ca-razy," joked Mia, who will attend Trinity College in Connecticut next fall.
Celebrating two holidays, they said, is ho-ho-hum. But marking Kwanzaa, they said, sets them apart. "I don't know anyone else who celebrates Kwanzaa," Leo said.
"I bring it up as a punchline," said Mia. "I tell my friends, 'Happy Kwanzaa,' as a joke."
Somehow the story leaves me feeling that holiday syncretism has limited appeal. Funny people, though:
By the end of December, the family may be drained, physically and financially, but the living room will be awash in candlelight.
"I figure by New Year's Day, we'll have 15 candles going," said David. "We'll celebrate Hanukkah, and the solstice, and then Christmas and Kwanzaa. We'll just light stuff continually . . ."
"And then there'll be an intense explosion," interrupted Tasha, with a laugh.
("So Much To Celebrate," Andrea Estes, Boston Globe 12.26.05, reg req'd)
Copyright © 2005 by Philocrites | Posted 26 December 2005 at 9:05 AM