Celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah: 5 Tips for Interfaith Families
With interfaith marriages on the rise in America, it’s not unusual now for Jewish families to also celebrate Christmas traditions.
Today, many couples want to pass on both holiday traditions to their children. While Hanukkah may be what your family honored throughout holidays past, you can still find ways to enjoy the wonder of Christmas with your family as well. Blending these two holidays together also allows for your children to understand that both of their parents are interested in learning about each other’s culture.
If you’re an interfaith family, here are some tips to embrace each holiday that feels most comfortable.
- Decide what celebrating each holiday means to you
The first step to embracing multiple traditions, is for you and your partner to look separately at the holiday you celebrate and decide what is important about each. Take time to write down what it means to you and what is key to honor during this time and then discuss your ideas together. Finding a balance with this can help you celebrate what you both hold special.
- Find mutual ground to celebrate each holiday
While Hanukkah and Christmas differ in many ways, it can be easy to find mutual themes that color each tradition. For example, both holidays have a focus on family, food and lights. Using these three themes can help you discover ways to honor both traditions with a connected thread. You could share why lights are used, what it represents, and what unique meaning it has for the celebration.
- Involve the older generations
Invite grandparents or aunts and uncles to share holiday customs that are part of their history. This is a wonderful way to connect generations while also passing on traditions. These customs could include cooking recipes together, creating decorations, or taking a trip to a meaningful place. New traditions could also spring from these family gatherings that become passed on as well.
- Celebrate both holidays but separately
In doing this, you celebrate each holiday but keep their traditions separate from one another at different times.
You could put up both Hanukkah and Christmas decorations, light the menorah and the Christmas tree, and exchange gifts for both holidays. Together, you could create separate holiday music playlists, make a Christmas dinner and Hanukkah dinner, and go to synagogue and church. If the holidays occur within the same time frame, try to find ways to honor them at different times. For example, you could have Christmas breakfast and a Hanukkah dinner. The night before each holiday begins is a good time to also read the story of its origin to set the tone of your celebration and educate children on its cultural meaning.
- Combine both holidays to create your own unique celebration
If blending both Christmas and Hanukkah into one mash-up holiday is to your liking, then it may be festive fun for you to create a single ‘Chrismukkah’ celebration.
You could host a holiday meal that incorporates dishes from each background or plan an activity that promotes the spirit of both traditions. Try combining foods such as a Christmas turkey with latkes instead of mashed potatoes or Star of David sugar cookies. Your Christmas tree could be decorated with menorahs and dreidels and blue and white lights instead of glass balls and colored or gold lights. Try building gingerbread houses with matzo bread or look in your local bookstore to find Chrismukkah books to read together. Invite both families over to celebrate Chrismukkah for a fun, cultural event and make new memories.
Blending Christmas and Hanukkah together doesn’t have to be a difficult challenge. It can be a simple process once you figure out what is important for you to celebrate for each holiday. In fact, many famous Jewish people embraced Christmas in their own way, such as Irving Berlin, George Burns and Danny Kaye. So, have fun blending both holidays to create your own special holiday memories for years to come!