Family / Kids / Life / Spirituality & religion

Interfaith Holidays

With Thanksgiving under our belts, we head into what is my most and least favorite time of year. (What can I say? I worked retail too long to not retain that cynicism.)

Though I am not a practicing Christian (or, well, a practicing anything), Christmas is one of the few traditions I’ve taken with me, and something that does mean a lot to me. I believe in Christmas in that horribly sappy way that the 1950s black and white movies want you to; in family and love conquering all, in connecting with and caring for our fellow man, in spreading love and joy to whomever you meet, as well as those you don’t. (I can hear J rolling her eyes from here.)

As an interfaith family, navigating the waters of the holiday season has become trickier since having a child. What was once a simple throwing of a fabulous “Chrismukkah” party has become negotiations of what presents get given from Santa, what comes from the moms versus grandparents, whether there’ll presents for Chanukah and, if so, how big and how many. Since we’re raising n in the Jewish community, we certainly don’t want her to feel left out. But in the scheme of Jewish Holidays, Chanukah is really quite inconsequential. I can understand, still, how it’s been made big, how parents don’t want their kids to feel left out, and how over the centuries, holidays of all origins have been made and remade to fit what society needed at any given time. So, yes, while it makes me roll my own eyes, I understand why so many families celebrate Chanukah as their own “Jewish Christmas,” with kids being just as spoiled as their goyim counterparts.

Honestly, I’m frightened enough about our daughter being spoiled with only Christmas, let alone with Chanukah as well.

And yet, it feels disingenuous to allow quite so much emphasis to be placed on Christmas when none of us actually practice Christianity.

It’s a tough line to walk, but one we’re doing our best to navigate it.

For now, we’ve decided that we’ll give gifts for Chanukah, but they will be small ones, more akin to those that would be in an advent calendar. We’ll do as we always have, light the candles, make tasty food, and celebrate with friends, and we’ll work hard to enjoy and celebrate, while putting the holiday in perspective. We’ll celebrate Christmas, but focus on the spirit of giving, and the wealth of love and support we have in our family and community.

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Are you an interfaith family? How do you celebrate the holiday season?

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  1. I’m not part of an interfaith family, but totally see your point. When you’re Jewish and raising your kids that way, it’s hard to tear them away from all the Christmas displays, presents, inflatable Santas, and the questions—-oh the questions! So even if you’re not interfaith, I feel Christmas has become so materialistic and blown up that it’s a lose-lose situation. And you’re right—in the grand scheme of things, Hanukkah is NOT one of the more important Jewish holidays. I actually enjoy lighting the menorah and eating latkes more than anything!

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