Santa or Star of David?

I’ve been trying to figure out how to narrow down the eleventy-seven questions that run through my head this time of year. (Couple that with my work barely coming out of busy season in time for the added holiday stress, and I’m often a real joy to be around this time of year.) I know my household isn’t alone in facing the December Dilemma, and I know we all have unique circumstances in our dilemmas. So, to keep the confusion in my head from just spilling out all over the page here, I’ll try to limit today’s post to just a couple issues.

We live in the Bible belt where, to put it nicely, people just assume you’re Christian. There are no Jewish day schools or daycares near where I live, so Baby goes to “school” at a wonderful daycare near our home. This school uses the A Beka curriculum, which is a Christian-based curriculum. We knew this when we chose the daycare, and we decided it was still the best place for Baby to go while we both work during the day. He’s happy there. His best friend (not coincidentally, the child of one of my best friends) is in his class. The teachers love him, the directors love him, and we’re quite pleased with the care he gets.

The school is warm and caring, and they decorate for all the seasons and holidays. Christmas is no exception. Yes, you read that right. Christmas is no exception. There are no menorahs or other Hanukkah decorations. There are no Kwanzaa decorations. It’s all snowflakes and Santa and stockings and trees. (At least it’s all “secular” Christmas decorations, even though many of you – my husband included – will tell me there’s no such thing as “secular” Christmas decorations. I hope we can agree to disagree on that for just this minute.) It’s festive and fun, and Baby LOVES the snowflakes and blue ball ornaments hanging from the ceiling all down the hall. As the Christian parent in the family, this actually doesn’t bother me…except…Baby is Jewish. Should it bother me? Should I request that the adorable Santa face outside the classroom that has Baby’s name on it be replaced with a Star of David or a menorah? We’ve not been overt about Baby’s religion, nor do we feel we need to be…should we be? Would it make things awkward at school? Should it matter to me if it does?

Bottom line, I know that the quality of care Baby gets at his school is the most important thing, and that he’s happy there. And I know that one day – or even one “season” (in the sense of the Christmas season) – won’t make him any less Jewish, if his Daddy and I do our jobs right as interfaith-parents-raising-a-Jewish-child. But still, these types of questions nag at the back of my mind. I’d love to hear thoughts from others in similar situations out there.

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4 thoughts on “Santa or Star of David?

  1. I just had a holiday dinner with several families this last weekend and this topic sort of came up.  My family is interfaith, two families are Christian, and one family is Jewish.  The Jewish dad told a story of his mom having no problem with him being Santa in a school play in elementary school because it wasn’t directly religious (it was Santa, not Jesus) and because she knew it wouldn’t impact his Jewish identity.  His home was Jewish, his family celebrated all the Jewish holidays, he went to temple, etc, and all that outweighed one silly school play.  I grew up in an interfaith home, sang Xmas songs at my school, did Xmas at my grandparents’ home every year, and I’m still Jewish.  I think that if you talk to Baby, you can make it clear that in school they do things differently than at home, that it’s ok to enjoy school activities, but that he is Jewish and you celebrate different holidays at home.

  2. On our [url=http://www.facebook.com/interfaithfamily/posts/10150425444546918]Facebook page, Cheryl[/url] wondered if you could “ask that they all be replaced with snow men?”

    It’s an interesting idea: if the idea is to celebrate the “season,” avoiding Santa and menorahs all together could be a route the school could support.

  3. My kids went to the YMCA daycare/preschool and are now in a public school where they are the only two Jewish children in the district (yes, district – not school). I really feel like I need to choose my battles wisely.  There will come a time when something important is scheduled on a High Holy Day and I will need to intervene.  There will likely come a time when something anti-semitic is said, and I will need to intervene.  And I want to have a relationship with the school and its administrators that I am an easy parent who only makes a ruckus when something is important.

    So I don’t challenge “SantaLand” – their little shopping fair has been called that for ages.  And I don’t challenge all the Christmas crafts and projects, and all the carols in their music class.  That said, I let their teacher know they are Jewish.  I come in to speak to the class about Chanukah each year – did this in preschool too – and they loved it.  I even gave the teacher a set of Chanukah stickers and said, “If you think of it, no big deal, but I thought Sophie might get a kick out of getting a Chanukah sticker on her papers rather than the Christmas ones.  Not a big deal if it’s a pain.” Sophie’s gotten all Chanukah stickers. 

    In this case, I might ask that Baby’s name be on a dreidel or a menorah rather than a Santa.  And I’d offer to come in and tell the class a little about Chanukah.  (For example, my little presentation began with “Are any of you looking forward to a holiday coming up?  Really? Which one? Ooooh.  Did you know that not everyone celebrates Christmas.  Sophie and I are Jewish, and we celebrate a different holiday called Chanukah.” Etc. I talk a little about the similarities (winter holiday, special foods, exchanging gifts) and a little about how they are different.  I tell a very brief version of what Chanukah is about and how we celebrate it. Then I read a cute book. (I’ve read Melly’s Menorah and The Only One Club, among others.)  It helps the kids feel special about their holiday, and gives the other kids a little cultural lesson. 

  4. I am the first one to talk to the teachers to ensure that my kids are given the option to opt out of any Chrismas-y stuff.  But, if I knowingly placed my kids in a Christian program, I am not sure that it would be right to ask them to change things.  As you stated, you said that you chose the program because it is the best program for your child.  All things come with trade-offs.  Like other folks have said, you have to pick your battles. 

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