Being part of an interfaith family can be difficult, especially around the holidays. When it comes to raising children, the question of how to fairly and fully raise your children religiously and culturally is hard because there is no right or wrong way. It’s simply about what is best for your family.
Of course, knowing that there is no wrong way doesn’t necessarily take the pressure off. Many of our readers are in interfaith marriages, many with a spouse who is Christian, or have extended family who are. Explaining to your kids why you have a Christmas tree and a menorah can be confusing, but we know it’s not impossible.
A reader recently reached out for some helpful advice, asking us: “I’m Jewish and my husband is Christian, and we’re raising our kids in both religions. This is the first year they’re old enough to really understand anything about the holidays. Any advice for explaining and celebrating both Hanukkah and Christmas?”
So, we went to Facebook and got these responses from you, our readers:
1. “Remember that they are separate holidays and should not have to compete with each other. If you spend Christmas with one set of grandparents and spend Hanukkah with the other, it can help to solidify their importance to each side of the family. I had no conflict as a child celebrating both Christian and Jewish holidays. And if you’re wondering, my sibling and I both chose to embrace Judaism.”
2. “My husband is Jewish and I’m in process of conversion. Our two boys are Jewish and being raised so. We put up a Hanukkah bush and menorah. We celebrate commercial Christmas and Hanukah. We do eight days of presents, and Santa brings one on Christmas day. Do what fits for your family, and don’t worry about what others say!”
3. “We do this, and it is actually very simple. You will be surprised by how easy it is for children to understand the difference. Our kids understand mom and her family are Christian, and celebrate Christmas/Easter/Jesus. And they know dad and his family are Jewish, and they know the importance of all the Jewish holidays. We are raising them exposed to both religions and are allowing them to choose their own path; any one is fine with us and they know that.”
4. “You and your husband need to first separately look at what celebrating the holiday means to you. Write out what means the most to you, and why you feel it needs to be honored. Then talk about it together. Find the balance and celebrate what is most important to you both.
How you choose to worship your creator should not be a point of contention. How you handle this will model for your children, and how you value each other, will give them that same respect for when they choose for themselves. And how they treat others that do not share their belief system.”
5. “I’m going to admit that I’m a Jew who likes Christmas. I don’t celebrate the holiday per se, but I don’t shun it either. It’s a family holiday, not a religious one for me. I have a mixed marriage, and whilst I celebrate Hanukkah at home, my in-laws and hubby have a Christmas tree; we go there on Christmas Day, and I share in their celebration. I also love holiday lights and pointed them out to my children, and we would talk about how the houses are decorated in the season of lights, explaining why the two festivals are different.”
6. “I like Hanukkah and Christmas because both holidays make people happy. The anticipation of and preparation for the holidays put people in a good mood. They are generally friendlier, more polite, and mindful of helping others who are in need. In today’s tumultuous world, a little extra good will and happiness makes everyone feel better. When Hanukkah and Christmas coincide on the calendar, I see it as a bigger celebration. Everyone gets to do something special at the same time. More people are happy, generous, and able to look forward to a temporary respite from winter doldrums and everyday life. To me, there’s nothing negative about that.
I respect the way people want to celebrate any holiday and keep it distinct, special, and fun. But there is a way to create a balance. Loving Hanukkah and enjoying Christmas are not mutually exclusive. Everyone has different traditions, and learning about them and taking pleasure from them does not threaten one’s own religion. I intend to enjoy the holidays–both of them. Before you know it, January will be here and we will all miss some form of the holiday spirit.”