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When her son was left out of a friend’s Hanukkah party, Diane Farr decided to spread some multi-cultural cheer.

My son, Beckett, wasn’t invited to his best friend’s Hanukkah party last year. He was only 3 years old at the time, so it was hard to explain that the reason we weren’t asked over for dreidel games was because we aren’t Jewish. I broke the news to him at the zoo, hoping some popcorn and a good view of a baby giraffe would help him get over it. It did. I, however, was still fuming.

When I started dating my now-husband, Seung Yong, his Korean parents vehemently opposed our interracial relationship. They seemed against his marriage to this Irish-Italian girl, right until the moment I was wearing their family heirloom on my left hand—at which point they accepted me completely. Eventually I saw that what my in-laws had feared was that I wouldn’t preserve their family’s traditions. I could appreciate that concern, and I still do. I hired a coach and learned enough Korean to communicate directly with Seung’s parents. And on our first family trip to Korea, I asked his dad to purchase the traditional gowns we later used for the babies’ 100-day and dol (first birthday) ceremonies. We’ve become a household that celebrates everything, from the Chinese New Year to the Mexican Day of the Dead, and it all culminates with our late-December Christmas Cringle party.

We started the tradition when Seung and I became a couple. We asked each of his friends and nearby relatives to bring a gift for one of my friends or family members and vice versa. Nearly 10 years later, it’s hard to say whose people are whose anymore. At the buffet table, his cultural delicacies are set out right alongside mine: the galbi next to the gnocchi, the kimchi beside the broccoli rabe.

Our mingling of traditions has become my children’s experience of what it means to be American, which is why the Hanukkah-party slight felt like such a shock. So I did what any indignant mother would do: I threw my own Hanukkah shindig. I enlisted the help of my best friend, Laurie, who happens, conveniently, to be a member of the tribe. She laughed at my first-time-mom rage, but, perhaps realizing how close I was to gate-crashing a toddler’s house party, she got behind the idea of an impromptu fete for all of our kids. My son was thrilled to “light” a candle (or rather, twist a tiny lightbulb on the electric menorah). While everyone happily scarfed down their latkes, we discussed the Festival of Lights and the meaning behind it.

A few days later, I began planning the Christmas Cringle, and Beckett asked if we could include his classmates. As he and I rattled off the names of his buddies, I paused ever so slightly after he said the name of his friend whose family had excluded us.

“Can’t everyone come, Mom?” asked my kind, still nearly perfect young man. In that moment, I realized it’s only us grown-ups who feel the need to assign boundaries, and I didn’t want my biracial kid to think that was ever okay. So the entire class was invited to the Cringle, at which Laurie gifted me her 20-year-old menorah to use next year at our newest family tradition: an everyone-is-welcome Hanukkah party.

Diane Farr is an actress and author. Her latest book is Kissing Outside the Lines.

  1. Radka on Sunday 11, 2011

    That is nice article and nice story!
    I think, that is soon but I wish your entire family Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!!

  2. Nicole on Sunday 11, 2011

    Aww! That’s a cool story. My mom, my sister and I went to a Jewish temple on a Friday night last year or the year before (my mom took a religion course; Old Testament). Her professor was a Jewish woman and she invited her students to attend. It was so cool.

    Even though we’re African Americans, we don’t celebrate Kwanzaa. It’s not just us. And I don’t care about Halloween. I never did trick-or-treating. My least favorite holiday.

    Diane, Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! :)

  3. Dan Mackey on Sunday 11, 2011

    Nice story, Thanks again for sharing and have a blessed Christmas and a prosperous New Year,

  4. Steve on Sunday 11, 2011

    Ah yes, the joys of religion!! I’m never surprised at how religion preaches love, sympathy, understanding…. but only to those who are of that faith.

    At this time of year it’s easy to forget the true meaning of Christianity – the lies, the corruption, the abuse, the manipulation and misery

    Celebrate the differences…… ignore religion !

  5. Steve G on Sunday 11, 2011


    Your stories are always so enlightening and I appreciate the diversity you teach your children! I would love to have spoken to the mother of your son’s friend and ask her “Since when are ONLY Jewish children allowed to attend a Hannukah celebration?” As a Jew myself I have never encountered that type of exclusion for my non MOT friends.

    Those parents are, if the reason was that your son isn’t Jewish, completely ignorant and not worthy of your friendship. BTW- did they accept your invitation to the Christmas Cringle?

  6. Diane Farr on Sunday 11, 2011

    They came to the Christmas Cringle. I kept joking that I was going to put “bacon bits” in all the adult food. But I refrained. All good now :)

  7. Frank P on Sunday 11, 2011

    I think you should only throw Christmas parties and should be forbidden to have a Menorah in your home. I’m kidding. Have a happy holiday Diane, love your writing on here.

  8. Kerri C on Sunday 11, 2011

    Hello Diane
    I’ve been following your career and I’m so proud of you.

  9. Debbie on Sunday 11, 2011

    I have to tell you that after I read this article I was telling a friend of mine about it and she didn’t know where the story was going but after I said, the woman only invited the Jewish kids from school, my friend said – that’s what I do. We live in a small town on the East Coast. There is not that big of a Jewish population here to begin with but I looked at my friend in shock. Why I asked, would you just ignore some CHILDREN from your families party? The festival of lights is not an important religous event for Jews. Why pick this one to be so devout that other families you celeberate birthdays with can’t come? My friend felt there is so much watering down of our festival, and so much pressure to participate in Christmas events that she wanted one end of the year party that was really about being Jewish. I had a lively debate with her but I wanted to tell you that you are not alone in your experience.

  10. Ida on Sunday 11, 2011

    Faith is not supposed to make you less kind. Its supposed to make you more kind!

  11. x factor on Sunday 11, 2011

    Hi Diane, I’m a big fan of your work on Rescue Me. I’d like to invite your whole family to a Ramadan party. Best of luck to you.

  12. Diane Farr on Sunday 11, 2011

    cut those Jokes out Frank P. df

  13. Diane Farr on Sunday 11, 2011

    Thank you Kerry.

  14. Diane Farr on Sunday 11, 2011

    Wow Debbie. Thank you for writing and for bringing in another perspective on the reasons behind exclusionism. I think your friend probably has a valid point to be honest. But if someone was very religious, this is not the holiday to be very emphatic about teaching your kids the history and traditions of. Trying to make a party more exclusive and hip and fun by making it harder to get into – is even a reality of how we socialize. It’s just that we usually spare toddlers this vetting process and I sadly wasn’t ready for it. oh, well. thank you for writing, your note was insightful. df

  15. Diane Farr on Sunday 11, 2011

    I’ve never been to a Ramadan party and I will look forward to this in JULY! DF