Leave a Plate of Matzoh for Santa

Celebrating two faiths during the holidays allowed me to appreciate twice as much

BY: Gary Magenta


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"No, that's OK, Hon" was his most frequent reply, varied with an occasional "Yeah, in a minute." This dialogue repeated itself throughout the decorating process, and throughout the years.

To us kids-Michael, Christopher and myself-their ability to enter into each other's religions, with all of the rituals and celebrations, was seamless. Dad moved through Passover, Hanukkah, and the High Holy Days with the same ease and commitment that Mom had for Christmas. The two religions, Catholicism and Judaism, were never meshed or confused or homogenized in our house. Both were respected, practiced and shared, not only amongst us but also with others.

Growing up in an interfaith home not only offered me a unique perspective on holiday celebration, it allowed me to experience two religions and cultures, to both of which I still subscribe today. Even more important, our home was open to a large extended family, with everyone partaking in celebrations that differed from their own. When you think of it, most people lack an appreciation for religious beliefs and celebrations other than their own due to limited exposure or participation.

On Christmas Eve, following Midnight Mass, our family opened presents, all the presents except for the one that Santa delivered personally after bedtime. In our house, Santa always brought the best present of all. On Christmas Eve, in most houses it is a tradition to leave Santa a snack of cookies and milk. Our house was much the same. But I do recall the year in which there was not a cookie in the house, not a crumb or a chip, not even an animal cracker. "Mom, there are no cookies for Santa," I said. "Let me look," she replied. "Here, use these," she said as she pulled the Manischewitz box from the cupboard. "Here, leave a plate of matzo for Santa." Without a second thought, the accompaniment to Santa's glass of milk that year was his plate of matzo...

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