December Dilemma

One of the most difficult times for the Interfaith couple can be December. The December Dilemma is not unique to interfaith families who are in a quandry over Chanukah vis-a-vis Christmas as they relate to families on both sides, celebrations and gift-giving. Jewish children everywhere wonder why they can’t partake in the fun of Santa Claus presents and the pretty Christmas Tree. And those who live long distances away from their Jewish families feel particularly isolated at these times of commercial and media created hype.

Every family makes their own decisions about how to deal with the Christmas vs Hanukkah issues. We encourage our Interfaith families to share your traditions with us to try to help others determine what are good ideas for their own family. Write us about your unique way of celebrating during the December Dilemma.

At a meeting of interfaith families at Congregation Beth Am in Northern California, the following were suggested:

  1. Take an active part in the Jewish holidays, such as Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkoth, and Simcha Torah. Then the children will have a firmer Jewish identity and will not feel as isolated in December.
  2. Create your own family tradition of timeless joy, away from the commercial gift-giving… make it special and something your children will remember when they grow up. It does not have to mimic what you remember from your childhood. Create your new memories.
  3. On Christmas Day, volunteer at your local soup kitchen and help others celebrate.


The Christmas Tree Question, or is there such a thing as a Chanukah Bush?

To tree or not to tree is often the question. Some people believe that the tree is definitely a Christain symbol and it is offensive to the Jews. Others see it as a non-religious symbol of the season and enjoy having a tree in their home. There are many in between views and various ways to compromise on the tree question. We welcome our TR Family to add thoughts and traditions about this and
other December issues.

Here are a few options for those who like to decorate for the season:

  • Decorate the tree with Jewish symbols and do it in blue and white.
  • Call it a winter tree and put snowflakes and icicles on the tree.
  • Don’t do a tree – but a wreath or two make a festive decoration.
  • Put a Star of David on the top of a tree.
  • Have a tree decorating party at a Christain family or friend’s house. Then invite them to your house for a Latke & Dreidle party. Introduce them to the lighting of the Chanukiah and general Jewish ritual and celebration.
  • Be sure to put menorahs/chanukias (or pictures of them) in your windows.

A Different Christmas Tradition Ideas for the Interfaith Family

When a family decides that they really don’t feel comfortable celebrating Christmas in a religious way, possibly they can do something else special on that day to make it interesting and productive.

Some people like to escape from the Christain holiday on Christmas day. Ways to escape might include:

  • Go to the movies.
  • Go to a museum.
  • Go on a hike.
  • Read a book out loud with your family.
  • Use it as a day to clean out the closet!
  • Use it as a day to plan what you are going to get done before the end of the year!

Some people like to use Christmas day to try to make a difference in the community:

  • Volunteer to take a person’s job for the day at a restaurant or hotel so they can have the holiday with their family.
  • Volunteer to serve at a soup kitchen or go deliver toys to families in need.
  • Go on a clean up walk – bring a big litterbag and walk around picking up the loose trash in your area.
  • Visit the elderly at an Assisted Living facility in your area and just talk to some people.
  • Write letters to those servicemen & women who are away from home.

Others like to help make it a special day for a friend who celebrates Christmas:

  • Volunteer to play “santa” for a friend.
  • Deliver Challah with candy fruit to Christain friends for their holiday meal.
  • Offer to be the server and clean up person at a friend’s holiday meal.

These are just a few ways an interfaith family might add meaning to Christmas day and make a difference in the world.

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