Dating Games: Home for the holidays

Take the time to learn about each other’s traditions and imagine how you would combine them if you were to start a family together.

Cartoon holidays 521 (photo credit: Pepe Fainberg)
Cartoon holidays 521
(photo credit: Pepe Fainberg)
From the High Holy Days through New Year (including Hanukka and Shabbatot), there is ample opportunity to get together with your family. If you are dating someone new, that means there is ample opportunity to introduce your new beau to your family’s old traditions.
Celebrating the holidays is an amazing time to be together and to reminisce about where these traditions began… your great-great-aunt’s banana bread recipe with the secret ingredient that keeps it moist… that time the table’s centerpiece caught on fire and candles were outlawed from gatherings… going to the same family’s home year after year to break the fast where everyone knows the routine: who’s making the egg salad and who’s making the dessert and who ought to just buy the bagels and lox and stay out of the kitchen… singing Grace After Meals with the same hand gestures and inflections because everyone went to Jewish summer camp together.
When my Mom spends two days cooking her famous brisket and the scent is wafting through the house, I recognize the smell I call “Jewish.” These traditions have been passed down from generation to generation, heightened and deepened as our everexpanding family and close circle of friends comes home to celebrate.
Blending someone new into the fold and having to explain where these rituals came from and why they’re important is also a good way to remind yourself why dating Jewish is a priority. Personally, I want to carry on these traditions, to host holidays in my future household, to have those smells permeate my walls.
When you begin seriously dating another member of the tribe and you begin to share these rituals, you will obviously find that he or she also has his or her own traditions. Take the time to learn about them and imagine how you would combine them if you were to start a family together.
Alas, all this family time is also an opportunity for true personalities to be exposed. Between the stress of hosting a holiday and the alcohol that may be flowing, people start to let loose a bit and they may no longer be on their best behavior around your new partner.
Every family has drama. Every single family. Don’t let people fool you. Just remember this when you’re at someone else’s house and the secrets are exposed. Very rarely is family drama a deal-breaker, but do also remember that when you marry someone you marry his family too. If their level of crazy is too much for you, then you need to strongly consider what your future will look like.
If you decide to forge ahead, then this can be a great opportunity to have The Talk (if you haven’t already), because you have now presented your reality – both the beautiful traditions and the ugly drama – so you know what you’re in for. If your new guy or gal hasn’t run for the hills by the Jewish New Year and is still around by the secular New Year, then it’s a pretty good indication that you’re both on the same page and you can begin the conversation about where the relationship is heading. Sharing the holidays with a serious significant other and your family may be just what your relationship needs to get to the next level.
If you’re still unsure and are nervous about broaching the subject, take a look around during one of these holidays and observe what your partner is doing and how he or she is interacting with your family and friends. Is she helping – or at least offering to help – your mom in the kitchen? Is he making your grandmother her special drink (mine drinks a vodka martini straight up, ice back with olives on the ice) or discussing your dad’s many hobbies? Is she down on the floor playing with your niece and nephew? When there is drama, does he or she stay quiet but subtly place a hand on your back? These are the signs you’re looking for to see if there’s a mutual desire for a future that will be filled with family and love and warmth.
If there’s a lot of awkwardly standing to the side, if there’s an overload of clinginess and whispering just with you, if there’s clear discomfort that won’t be solved with extra family interaction, then you will have to decide if this is a person with whom you want to create a family. If you are each both hardcore committed to your respective family’s traditions and can’t possibly part with the tune you sing or the way you observe Yom Kippur or how you celebrate the eight crazy nights of Hanukka and no one is willing to blend, then you will have to decide whether this is really going to work out. By recognizing these signs and not ignoring them, you can save yourself a lot of future grief.
Here’s hoping that your significant other loves your mom’s brisket and has an easy rapport with your family that will lead to a productive and successful conversation about where your relationship is headed.