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What follows is the text–minus the tables–from our report on our 2006 December Holidays Survey, which specifically looked at the 342 respondents (out of a population of 759) who told us they were in an interfaith relationship, had children and were raising the children Jewish. Tomorrow we will post the Conclusions section of our report:
Almost all of the respondents expect to participate in Hanukkah celebrations and Christmas celebrations this year: 99 percent expect to participate in Hanukkah celebrations while 89 percent plan to participate in Christmas celebrations.
The great majority of these respondents plan on doing multiple activities relating to the celebration of Hanukkah in their own home. Ninety-nine percent plan to light the menorah and 63 percent plan on telling the Hanukkah story.
In addition, only 18 percent of these families plan on attending religious services for Christmas this year.
Of the 289 respondents who answered the question, “If you are raising your children as Jews, will you tell your non-Jewish relatives not to give Christmas presents to your children?”, 261, or 90 percent, said they would not tell their non-Jewish relatives not to give Christmas presents. Most of the respondents offered explanations for their decision; a significant majority of the responses cited respect for non-Jewish relatives as the reason for their decision:
A number of respondents also said they didn’t want to “make waves” or cause “turmoil”:
Some in the Jewish community are concerned with religious “syncretism,” or blending of religious traditions. This year, 89 percent of the respondents who said they were participating in celebrations of both holidays said they would keep their holiday celebrations separate, while only 8 percent said they would be blended.
Following up on last year’s survey, we asked if respondents had heard about “Chrismukkah,” a holiday first mentioned on the Fox drama “The O.C.” that combines symbols and celebrations of Hanukkah and Christmas into one holiday. There was an increased awareness of Chrismukkah since last year. Of the 581 survey respondents in interfaith relationships, 71 percent said they had heard of Chrismukkah, as compared to 57 percent last year, and only 29 percent had not, compared to 43 percent last year. Of those who had heard of Chrismukkah, 68 percent said they thought that Chrismukkah is a bad idea, while 10 percent think it is a good idea.
Among respondents in interfaith relationships raising their children Jewish, even greater numbers thought Chrismukkah was a bad idea (75 percent) and fewer (5 percent) thought it was a good idea.
While most of the respondents who plan to celebrate Hanukkah expect to enjoy their celebrations this year (87 percent), a little more than half (56 percent) said they expect to enjoy their participation in Christmas celebrations.
However, when it comes to children, more than three-quarters (76 percent) expect their children to enjoy Christmas celebrations, while 91 percent expect their children to enjoy Hanukkah celebrations. This would suggest that children being raised Jewish in interfaith families enjoy both holidays, while their parents are much more ambivalent about Christmas.
For interfaith families raising Jewish children, a primary way to resolve potential conflicts over the December holidays is to participate in celebrations of both holidays but treat Hanukkah as a religious holiday and Christmas as a secular one. Only 23 percent of respondents who are celebrating Hanukkah reported that their Hanukkah celebrations would be more secular than religious. In contrast, 79 percent of respondents who are participating in Christmas celebrations said their Christmas celebrations would be more secular than religious, a point verified by the very low number of respondents who plan on telling the Christmas story either at their home (5 percent) or the home of relatives and friends (6 percent).
Despite the evidence of ambivalence over Christmas, three-quarters of respondents feel that participating in Christmas celebrations will not affect their children’s Jewish identity. Many of the respondents said they’re comfortable with the distinctions they’ve made between the holidays.
However, some reported concerns over the impact of participating in Christmas celebrations on their children’s Jewish identity:
A handful of respondents said that celebrating both holidays actually strengthens their children’s Jewish identity.
Of the 155 Jews in interfaith families who report having a Christmas tree in the home, slightly less than half of the Jews in interfaith families feel comfortable with having a Christmas tree in their home (48 percent) while slightly more than a quarter (28 percent) feel uncomfortable with having a Christmas tree in their home.
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