The Diversity Within Our Families… Americana 2019

American families are interesting. There is no shortage of diversity. My husband’s Jewish uncle, is married to the divorced wife of a Christian minister. Thinking she was an attractive Jewish girl, the former preacher’s wife caught uncle’s eye. “No,” she told me, “Polish ancestry. Not Jewish.” She descends from Polish immigrants who settled in Indiana in the 1800s.

Anyone who has read my books, knows that I raised an eyebrow and considered that uncle’s wife’s family tree might have Jewish roots. Whatever the family history, uncle married a beautiful woman, inside and out. Uncle is a proud Jew who loves to call and wish us, “Merry Christmas,” and the Christmas cards they send, leave me with the sense that he had more to do with it than she did.

When they called yesterday to wish us, “Happy New Year,” I grabbed the calendar to see when Passover was, so that we might meet up with our Jewish family members. To my embarrassment, Passover was not listed on the calendar. An error? I thumbed back to December and could not believe that Hanukkah had been omitted too. Christmas was there. Cinco de Mayo was there. “Oh,” I told them as they remained on speakerphone, “it’s an anti-Semitic calendar.” They laughed.

All my life, these two Jewish holidays have appeared on calendars. Even the White House has a Hanukkah party. I’ll bet that the individual who thought these two Jewish holidays were unimportant, descends from ancient Jews, somewhere on his or her family tree. Odds are high that they have an Old Testament name, like Hannah, David, Jacob or Rachel.

Yes, I called my favorite grocery store and spoke up about their calendar. Together, the customer service rep and I, constructed a letter to the president of the store. And the more I think about it, what about Kwanzaa and all the other days of significance? Doesn’t the store want everyone to feel welcome?

Yes, I know, Israel uses a completely different calendar. I can’t do anything about that. Although, I could call the grocery store and shout, “Don’t forget to  include Jewish New Year!”

2019 promises to be interesting, doesn’t it? Hang tight and have a happy one.

Suellen Ocean is the author of Secret GenealogyA How-to for Tracing Ancient Jewish Ancestry. Available here:


History: Imagine… Arrested for Celebrating Christmas… in America!

Would you believe that in the early American Colonies it was a sin to express happiness? Especially religious joy? (Sounds like Iran where the young people were arrested for dancing to Pharrell William’s song “Happy.”) In Puritan America, if you were caught celebrating Christmas you were arrested and punished. Public displays of merriment were forbidden, including Christmas. Religion was not something to be happy about. Skip forward three-hundred years. Have we changed or what? People are knocking each other over in malls rushing into stores open at midnight. Today, for many Americans, Christmas isn’t about religion. Yet for others it’s a very religious holiday. Whatever Christmas means to you, religion, family, gift-giving, festivities, we can all be thankful that America progressed and we can express ourselves through a variety of religious, ethnic and/or pagan holidays and not get arrested for it. Suellen Ocean is the author of The Last Quadroon. Available here:

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