Holiday Traditions | Blending Faiths

Yankee Magazine Senior Editor Amy Traverso shares how she and her husband combine religion and tradition at the holidays.

By Amy Traverso

Oct 18 2012

Gingerbread House

Our family’s holiday traditions have evolved carefully and with much thought—and some amount of hair-tearing and/or navel-gazing. My husband was raised Jewish and I was raised Catholic, and when we met 14 years ago, the initial phase of bliss was soon tempered by the realization that we would need to Figure Things Out. This has been an ongoing process, one that grows a bit easier as time goes on. But no time of the year is quite as complicated as the holidays. One person’s childhood memories compete with the other’s identity. I remember our first year of dating, when Scott came over to my tree-trimming party and gamely threaded popcorn on a string, but couldn’t bring himself to hang an ornament. Then again, I also remember discovering that celebrating Hannukah could feel like a welcome pause in the holiday rush, a quiet moment in all the noise. Years ago, we launched an annual latke party where I also serve my family’s favorite Christmas cookies, and it’s now hard to imagine December without it. We’ve become pretty good at sitting with our differences, of being able to live with not having the answers all worked out yet. And as any long-married couple knows, this is a good skill to have.

One other tradition that we both embrace without reservation is building a gingerbread house. We love everything about it: the construction, the decorating. I have a soft spot for miniatures and goofy Christmas villages, and Scott loves the problem-solving and the template-making. And we like to go outside the box. Our first project was the Guggenheim museum, a project made easier with the use of sugar cubes and open walls.

Another favorite: a bow-front Boston brownstone with caramelized sugar windows.

We don’t find time to make one every year. In fact, we haven’t done it since our son was born four years ago. But we’ve got an idea for this year: a gingerbread house that looks like it’s made out of Legos. I don’t know quite how we’ll do it, but the effort will be something we can all love.