The first time I celebrated Passover with my husband's extended family, his great-grandmother pulled me aside to tell me that she thought it was wonderful that I was celebrating with them, "even though you're not of our religion." (I was not the first shiksa to join the family.)
Captain Uncle, another married-in gentile, taught me to season my matzo ball soup with salt and pink horseradish (it's gotta be the pink one) in order to stomach it. (I'm sorry, Hebros and Shebrews, but if you didn't grow up with it, it's not good. It's just not.)
I even learned the blessing for the wine in Hebrew, all on my own, because I wanted to impress them, and also because wine.
After acing Passover, I figured Hanukkah would be a breeze. It's just like Christmas, I reasoned, except that the gifts are wrapped in blue and silver paper, instead of red and green. And they sat under a potted ficus, rather than a plastic Balsam fir. No problem. I got this.
We showed up at Nana and Papa's house, and after a bit of small talk and some cheese and crackers, I did what I always do on Christmas: I made my way over to the gifts, I searched for one with my name on it, and I picked it up and shook it.
At this point, the needle scratched off of the record, someone dropped a crystal goblet, and three women audibly gasped. Okay, I might be exaggerating just a touch. But I swear, everyone looked at me like I had three heads.
My husband explained that this just wasn't done in their family. It seems that the rule had originally stemmed from the boys of his generation being obsessed with Lego sets for many years. You can shake a handbag or a crème brûlée torch all day and never guess what's inside, but as soon as you pick up a Lego set, you know. Somehow, the tradition continued even after the boys outgrew plastic bricks.
Fast-forward twelve years. I have a little boy now. There are four Lego sets under my tree. And I'm pretty damn sure that if he were to shake one right now, he'd know.
I am totally on board with the Rose Family No-Shaking Policy. Sorry, guys; I get it now.