We are a Jewish family and although we don’t celebrate Christmas, there is no way to avoid the influence of this holiday on our lives. I wanted to share with you how I help my Jewish kids deal with Christmas envy. I have a couple of different ways that I go about talking to my kids about Christmas.
Feeling Left Out During Christmas
This can be a tough time of year for anyone who doesn’t celebrate the holiday. It’s especially easy for kids to feel like they’re being left out of all the fun stuff. (It really does look like fun.) Since Christmas has been so commercialized, the celebration with Santa and Elf on a Shelf seem like a far cry from the story of the birth of Jesus. This separation from the religious origins of Christmas really helps it seep into our culture more than it probably would be if everything was still really about the birth of Jesus. Whether it is about Jesus or Santa at the mall, for me it’s all the same thing. This is all part of a holiday that we don’t participate in.
My Strategy for Helping My Jewish Kids Deal with Christmas Envy
The first way that I deal with it is with empathy. When my kids are bummed that Santa doesn’t come to our house, I let them know that I get it. Santa and all of it does sound awesome, but I remind them that we have awesome stuff of our own. It’s just different stuff.
Love Being Jewish
This leads to the second part, which is making sure that they love being Jewish. I remind them of how wonderful it is to be Jewish. While we don’t do the same holidays as some of their friends, they don’t do our holidays either. I started this YouTube channel was because I wanted to bring more Jewish life into my family’s life.
There are so many Jewish holidays that I wanted to celebrate with my kids. When they say “how come we don’t get to do things like Christmas?”, I get to say “yeah we don’t do that, but we DO get to dress up for Purim, and we get to celebrate Tu B’shevat . We get to do Shabbat and make challah. We get to celebrate Hanukkah.” I remind them that being Jewish is special because of all of the amazing and fun stuff we get to do their friends at school don’t get to do.
We’re Not the Only Ones
Naturally, it is difficult for anyone, especially kids to feel like a minority. We live in a very diverse area and on the drive to school this morning my daughter said, “how come so many people celebrate Christmas but we don’t?”. I took the opportunity to remind her that we aren’t the only ones who don’t celebrate Christmas. We have all of our Jewish friends who also don’t celebrate Christmas. I also pointed out that there were houses that weren’t decorated for Christmas.
I asked my daughter, “you know what there are other people who also don’t celebrate Christmas?”, and from the back seat she said, “yeah, they celebrate Diwali”. Diwali is an Indian holiday, and of course we don’t celebrate Diwali, but it’s also nice to remember that we’re not the only people that don’t celebrate Christmas. There are plenty of other people that also don’t celebrate Christmas and they have their own holidays and their own special things just like we do.
The Boundaries of Our Jewish Home
When it comes to participating in other people’s holidays, I make a pretty firm boundry about what happens like in our home and outside of our home. This is a Jewish home, so we don’t celebrate Christian holidays in our home. However, we will participate in Christmasy things when we’re invited to celebrate with our friends. For example, we may get invited to decorate a Christmas tree, we go out and enjoy everyone’s holiday lights at night, and get invited to celebrate Christmas day with our friends.
I’m fine with being social and experiencing some of these things with friends, but I don’t sign my kids up to participate in anything individually that’s Christmassy. This means we’re not going to go to the mall to sit on Santa’s lap, or in the spring our neighborhood has an Easter egg hunt and my kids don’t participate in that.
Going Big for Hanukkah
I work to make Hanukkah in our home special. We always decorate. I love having our home feel really celebratory during this time of year, but I do take down our Hanukkah decorations once the holiday is over. Some years Hanukkah ends before Christmas, so although we are no longer decorated for Hanukkah because our holiday is done.
I know that every family handles this differently. I am sending you all lots of strength and love for when your kids tell you that they don’t want to be Jewish because they want Santa. Just hang in there and bite your tongue! Naturally your kids don’t mean to offend; Santa sounds awesome. They’ll come around. Like I said, every family is different so if you want in on this conversation. How do you help your Jewish kids Jewish kids deal with Christmas envy? reach out and follow me on Instagram.
anonymous2 years ago
I’ve never understood why so many Reform and Conservative Jews are okay with Halloween and Valentine’s Day, but not Santa.
I decided before having kids to let them have the fun and wonder of Santa. That doesn’t mean that I believe in the divinity of Jesus or celebrate his birth (which was most likely in September according to historians). If anything, Christmas is a commercial, American holiday, based on the Roman celebration of Saturn. If I were a devout Christian, I’d probably find the whole spectacle pagan and sacrilegious (as the Puritans did).
Yes, if I were Orthodox and lived in an Orthodox community, I’d forgo Santa. But I live in a diverse suburb where my Judaism takes a minor role in my everyday life. I can’t justify arbitrarily drawing such a hard line on letting my child get a present from a magical character. The Easter Bunny is boring and a hard no because of what Easter represents, but Santa? Yes, please!
Hayley2 years ago
I live in a multi-faith house, we are Judaism/Christian/Pagan. It takes a lot of preparation for the year but my family is fully diverse so we celebrate all major holidays with love, kindness and an open mind and heart.