Article Discussion: Canceling Christmas

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This topic has 5 voices, contains 6 replies, and was last updated by  Caroline 259 days ago.

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December 4, 2009 at 6:41 pm #4084

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December 9, 2009 at 5:59 pm #4105

Unregistered

I struggle with this more and more every year, especially since I’m now an atheist. This year, I’ve come to the conclusion that I must do Hanukkah only because, otherwise, all my kids see are tempting xmas images everywhere they look, particularly here in the south, where you are hard-pressed to find anything Hanukkah-related in any store or even in the public schools (and it’s xmas everywhere you turn). Xmas sure is the best recruiting tool the christians have.

December 9, 2009 at 7:07 pm #4106

Jennifer Willis

I hear you! Much of the hype surrounding Christmas is anything but religious. Come to think of it, few of the people I know who celebrate Christmas do so for obvious religious reasons.

One of the things I love about Judaism is the emphasis on action over belief. In other words, Hanukkah doesn’t have to be a religious observance. You can happily indulge in family traditions, and even create new ones for yourself.

There is nothing in the New Testament about decorating pine trees or a jolly man in a red suit handing out presents to children. You can light menorah candles because it’s family tradition (even if it’s one you’re just now starting), and break out the dreidel because the game is fun.

But if you’re looking for the “why” behind these activities, that can be an entirely personal journey.

For me, candle-lighting is appropriate in these darker months when daylight can be scarce — each candle lit (whether for Hanukah, Shabbat or quiet meditation) is a focus for gratitude (that I have candles to light, and that I light and warmth indoors during winter) and is a promise of the return of sunnier days in the spring. Gathering with friends and family is a blessing at any time of year, but in the winter this underscores the necessity of community for survival — during tough times for Jews and for all human beings.

And latkes…. Well, I just really like potatoes. ;)

December 10, 2009 at 8:36 pm #4108

Unregistered

Thanks to Jennifer and the other commenter for your comments. I have a hard time with this every year because I am Jewish and my husband is from an interfaith family that celebrates Christmas. Although we plan to raise our future children Jewish, I have agreed to let us celebrate Christmas at my in-laws’ house, where it is a huge deal. It upsets me every year as we get closer to having children, because I fear the abundance of presents will overshadow the rest of the year trying to raise Jewish children. Judaism isn’t flashy, and it isn’t easy, and I worry children will get sucked in by Christmas. So I appreciate your thoughts about ways to make those distinctions. My plan is to try to instill a Jewish identity and a sense that we celebrate Christmas because it is part of their father’s tradition. Don’t know how it will work, but hopefully we can figure this out. Thanks!

July 3, 2010 at 3:02 am #4804

Virginia May Reynolds

Well, I must say that all posters here had made extremely good points.

By way of background I’m in an interfaith marriage and my child will be almost 2 this coming Christmas. Yes, he’s too young to appreciate any of it but still it makes me think.

I’m actually Pagan myself and I celebrate Pagan festivals such as Shamain, Beltane etc which are by and large in tune with the natural agricultural circle. My husband is Jewish but he comes from yet another interfaith marriage (Catholic father and Jewish mother). However, he tragically lost both his parents in an accident and was brought up by his Jewish aunt. Of course, he made up his own mind as an adult but his family in general are pretty much the tolerant and very liberal type.

To complicate matters my parents are Anglican (Christian) and they love Christmas. Unlike Daniel’s family, my parents were always pushed for money but they always wanted to make Christmas special for us (I come from a big family) and now all the grandchildren etc.

My mother has known Dan a long time and loves him to bits (he was the best friend of one of my brothers at school) and Dan himself partook in some Christmas celebrations with us when he was a youngster. Dan sort of compensate for not having had his parents in his life since he was 5 and he tends to go overboard materially, although he’s not a materialistic type at all. I grew up with much less materially but I had what he didn’t so we sort of understand where the other is coming from. Still, whilst I love to celebrate anything under the sun and I totally respect also my husband’s traditions (which we observe despite my own uncommon faith etc), I want to see my parents happy about us being there but still I don’t want my son growing up to see December as a free present for all bonanza. Although yes, every girl likes a bit of indulgent shopping, I hate the fact that religion gets tainted with consumerism. Yet, again, hypocritical me enjoys the treats.

Someone here mentioned that even for non-religious people, tradition observance is a good thing. I agree. Okay, Christmas celebrations are important to my parents and I would add mainly as a way to bring my siblings, wifes/husbands, children etc together under the roof of their countryside farm, which is nothing fancy but a very welcoming place for all.

So, am I to celebrate these three different faiths for ever or do what exactly? Some say, pick one and stick to it (as a family). I’m sure my mum would understand if Dan decided that he couldn’t celebrate Christmas with them but she would be quite sad. We just sort of treat Christmas as sort of lay and the meaning in our minds is that of a family gathering and the wonderful values of families coming together. There has never been much of an issue with my parents or Daniel’s aunt in terms of religion; both sides accepted our relationship but yes, now we have a child to think of…

I must say I admire the Jewish way in terms of not over-indulging. I don’t think Christmas got this overly commercial until the 20th century though but still. One problem I have is that my Jewish husband loves to be generous and buy presents and have huge family parties, so he enjoys it probably as much as the children! lol

December 11, 2012 at 2:39 pm #8870

Liz

To “Unregistered”–please don’t worry, if you raise your kids with strong Jewish identities and values, and celebrate the Jewish holidays, they can enjoy celebrating Christmas with the Christian side of the family, with no loss of pride or interest. I worried about this too, and we have had no issues. They understand that we have lots of holidays that grandma and grandpa don’t, and that we are privileged to go celebrate their holiday with them once or twice a year.

November 13, 2013 at 8:38 pm #19529

Caroline

The reason we Christians give gifts on Christmas is because when Jesus was born the three wise men brought him gifts of gold, frankincense, and mere. Christmas is about the spirit of giving and love in a family. It is not meant to be flashy but a sign of love and joy. Don’t Jewish families do the same thing with gift giving during Hannukah? The Christmas tree is a symbol of life since the evergreen does not die in the winter. It is a fun and beautiful tradition and while some assume it has nothing to do with Christmas and has no religious meaning that is not necessarily true. If you study the story of Christmas you would see there are lots of symbols just like the stories of Judaism. All religions have symbols with deeper meaning. Judaism has lots and gift giving is a wonderful and fun family thing and Judaism just like Christianity emphasizes the importance of family.

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