A Christmas Tree is always a Christmas Tree, If You Want It To Be

So I just read the post from Benjamin Maron about “When is a Christmas Tree Just a Christmas Tree?” I can say that I totally relate to this. My daughters are being raised Jewish and their father/my husband, Alex, is Catholic and yes, we do have the Christmas tree and stockings and decorations. We don’t go to Christmas Mass though (or any mass really except if it’s for a family event on Alex’s side) and we don’t tell the Christmas story. We do have Christmas dinner with my husband’s family and there have been times my Jewish family has joined in as my daughter Kaitlyn’s birthday is Christmas Eve and my family rightfully wants to see her. We also do Chanukah, visit with my family, have latkes, play dreidel, watch the Maccabeats on You Tube (and we are seeing them in concert during Chanukah this year, how cool is that?) and listen to Adam Sandler’s Chanukah songs(although the first version is the best!).

My daughters identify as Jewish and respecting their dad’s and his family’s religion is not going to make them any less Jewish. My older daughter last December actually announced it in the middle of class. Her teacher had given out a work sheet to play a game to fill in the missing letters of Christmas carols and my daughter got up and said “Mr. Galvin, I don’t know this because I am JEWISH.” She then had me come in to her class that spring and do a lesson on Passover so her friends would understand her holidays. Celebrating another religion’s holiday doesn’t make you less; it makes you bigger than the sum of your parts. I am so proud of my girls and how they understand that what they are is not necessarily the same as everyone else and that that’s ok.

Do your children understand the differences and how do you explain it to them? I am still working on my five year old Megan understanding that men and women can be Jewish since she thinks that because her dad is Catholic all men must be Catholic and since mom is Jewish that all women must be Jewish.

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3 thoughts on “A Christmas Tree is always a Christmas Tree, If You Want It To Be

  1. Thank you for your insightful comments, particularly the last paragraph. There are many, many complex things about the world that I struggle to explain to my 3-year-old daughter. Why we don’t celebrate Christmas at home, but exchange presents with my Christian family, is really the least of it. Whatever choices we make we can only attempt to explain — to our children and our communities — with honesty and humility.

  2. Great article. I wonder if Christmas will eventually become a secular holiday — just as Halloween has become a celebration of candy, Christmas will become a celebration of toys and a day off. Capitalism seems to be taking over all of the holidays. Whatever works for your family is what is right for your family.

  3. I love the last paragraph, too. Kids are so funny sometimes.

    This story reminds me of when my tiny child was cheerfully explaining that her cousins’ family celebrated Christmas, but that we did not, because we were all Jewish. I felt the need to clarify that she, her brother and her Dad were Jewish, but that I was Christian like her cousin. She looked at me wide-eyed and blurted, “Mommy, aren’t you Jewish yet??” I’ll treasure her sweet, innocent comment forever.

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