I was baptized as a Catholic. I made my 7 Sacraments as a Catholic. My family is made up of Irish and Italian Catholics, and my name is still registered with the Catholic Church. But, I am Jewish.
I decided to convert to Judaism when I started college. There is an amazing Jewish community here on campus and in the city and being a Jewish Studies minor, everything sort of led to me converting.
My parents were supportive; my mom was just happy I believed in something and had made so many new friends along the way, and my dad was pretty indifferent. I kept it a secret for a while from some of my family members, but eventually it got out, and of course, they were shocked.
One of the biggest questions I got after the initial shock was, "Well, what about Christmas?"
I haven't been to a Christmas Eve mass in years, so I didn't see why it mattered so much. After I made Confirmation, the last Sacrament a juvenile makes, I pretty much denounced Catholicism and decided to remain Agnostic for a few years before I found my place elsewhere, and that meant not going to church unless it was for a wedding, baptism, or funeral.
That wasn't what they meant, though. They meant, will I be celebrating Christmas still? Of course! Christmas has become so commercialized and more about presents and spending time with your family than about religious practices. I mean, the same thing goes for Hanukkah; it isn't even in the Hebrew Bible.
Just because I'm Jewish doesn't mean I'm going to give up celebrating Christmas with my family or even getting chocolate on Easter. It just means that I have learned to detach these holidays from religion. WIth Christmas, I feel like it's so much easier to celebrate in a Secular way than, say, celebrating Yom Kippur would be. Nobody wants to fast for 25 hours just for shits and gigs, ya know?
I wouldn't say that now it's awkward around Christmas time. During dinners, I'll sit silently while everyone says Grace and usually I'm reciting the Kaddish in my head. Hanukkah usually falls during Finals Week anyway, so I'm celebrating it away and either with my friends or alone. I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and spread holiday cheer and whatnot. I'm not sitting in the corner like the Grinch muttering, "I'm Jewish."
This past year, I've gotten holiday cards for Hanukkah from my family, which was surprising, but also made me tear up a bit because it showed they accepted my Jewy-ness.
It may mean having to celebrate all of the Jewish holidays on my own, but what counts is the holidays that I've celebrated my whole life and getting to spend time with family that counts. And I'll proudly light my Menorah next to my Christmas tree like the Cashew I am.