What We Learned from Our Third Annual December Holidays Survey, Part II

Yesterday, we published an adapted version of our report on the Third Annual December Holidays Survey. Today, we are publishing the Conclusions section:

The great majority of interfaith couples raising their children as Jews plan on participating in celebrations of both Christmas and Hanukkah.

Some observers of intermarriage have cast a skeptical eye on this trend, arguing that interfaith families can’t raise their children as Jews and celebrate Christmas, but the results of this survey suggest that they can.

According to our survey, interfaith families raising Jewish children who participate in Christmas celebrations are doing a very good job of distinguishing between the holidays and are giving clear priority to Hanukkah over Christmas, as both a family celebration and a religious holiday.

While these families do not observe Hanukkah in a deeply religious way, their participation in Christmas celebrations is almost entirely secular. Very few of these families expect to tell the Christmas story or attend Christmas services at church.

In contrast, the vast majority of these families plan on celebrating Hanukkah by lighting the menorah, giving gifts and eating Hanukkah foods. There is also a surprisingly low level of participation in even non-religious Christmas activities at home like listening to Christmas music, eating Christmas food or hanging stockings. Barely one-half even plan on giving Christmas gifts at home. Less than half plan on having a Christmas tree.

Many of these families plan on participating in Christmas celebrations at the homes of friends and relatives and plan on giving and receiving gifts, but it should be noted that many single Jews and in-married Jews also participate in Christmas celebrations at the homes of friends.

Despite the high level of participation in some kind of Christmas activities at homes of friends or relatives, these families feel comfortable that celebrating Christmas won’t negatively impact their children’s Jewish identity. For most of them, participating in Christmas at the home of extended family is simply a matter of respect for the traditions of the non-Jewish family. This emphasis on respect is also indicated by the very small number of families who will tell their non-Jewish relatives not to give Christmas gifts to their children.

Among Jewish partners in interfaith relationships, there is a significant level of ambivalence over Christmas, which could be expected from people who are trying to reinforce their children’s Jewish identity. The children in these relationships, however, look forward to both Christmas and Hanukkah.

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