Edmund Case, the founder and CEO of InterfaithFamily.com, Inc. and co-editor of The Guide to Jewish Interfaith Family Life: An InterfaithFamily.com Handbook (Jewish Lights Publishing, 2001), frequently writes on intermarriage issues. Recent pieces include "Can the Jewish Community Encourage In-marriage AND Welcome Interfaith Families?," from a presentation at the November 2010 General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America; "The Missing 'Mazel Tov'," an August 2010 op-ed in The Forward; and "Chelsea Clinton's Interfaith Marriage: What Comes Next?," an August 2010 blog post on The Huffington Post.
I Still Say 'Chrismukkah' is a Bad Idea
Read Ron Gompertz original comments "Imagine..It's Chrismukkah Time Again"
In December 2004 I wrote “Chrismukkah” is a Bad Idea for InterfaithFamily.com. This year, we invited Ron Gompertz, founder of Chrismukkah.com, to explain what “Chrismukkah” means to him and what he's trying to accomplish with his business.
I'm sure Mr. Gompertz has good intentions. I'm glad that he continues to celebrate Hanukkah while his wife celebrates Christmas as before, that they share their rituals, and that they are raising their daughter as a Jew. But I don't think he's clear on what “Chrismukkah” is, or on what it adds to their lives.
At one point, Mr. Gompertz says “Chrismukkah” is a “time of year,” at another, “not a holiday.” I have less trouble with “Chrismukkah” as a season than as a holiday--but that's exactly what the problem is, because at other points Mr. Gompertz does describe it as “our new one-size-fits-all 'holiday'.” He adds: “Take your favorite secular parts from Christmas and Hanukkah… the food, the lights, the snowmen, the songs… then mush them all together,…” Once he ritualizes “Chrismukkah” in that way, giving it particular customs and family meanings, he has created another, competing holiday, whether he intended to or not.
I still think that “Chrismukkah” is a bad idea, for the same two reasons as last year. First, Hanukkah and Christmas are different holidays, each with a history and distinct traditions. Combining them eliminates the integrity of each.
Second, and more important, for interfaith families raising their children as Jews, it's important to honor and respect the ethnic, cultural and religious traditions of both parents. But “Chrismukkah,” because it mushes distinct traditions together, can only confuse children being raised with one religious identity in an interfaith family.
In our second annual December Dilemma Survey, 57% of the respondents had heard of “Chrismukkah.” Seventy-eight percent said they thought it was a bad idea, for the same two reasons--losing the meaning of each holiday, and confusing children--and a third--that it combines the holidays for commercial reasons. Respondents used the following terms: “taints,” “undermines,” “waters down,” “lowers,” “cheapens,” “dilutes,” “trivializes,” and “offensive.” Here are some verbatim comments from the survey respondents:
The holidays are distinct in their meaning and history. To blend them dishonors both. We try to honor both traditions in our family, while raising our children Jewish. To blend the two makes it impossible to truly understand and appreciate what the holidays mean. It further secularizes the holidays because after eviscerating their meaning, commercialization is all that is left.
The fact that we are in interfaith relationships does not mean that we have an interfaith religion. Our religions are still two separate, individual traditions that should be honored as such. Celebrating both Christmas and Hanukkah is one thing, but pretending they are the same holiday is another.
Religious diversity isn't about blending traditions; it's about recognizing and honoring different traditions in their own unique ways.
You can't blend them like we combined Washington's and Lincoln's birthdays into Presidents' Day. It insults both traditions.
Combining holidays commercializes even more and makes it just a trendy shopping gimmick.
It confuses children. I think they need to be given one clear and consistent message about which holiday is which, and why each is important in its own right. Mixing the two diminishes the meaning for both.
Who wants fruit salad when either the apples or the oranges are perfectly delicious by themselves?
So, I'm sorry, Mr. Gompertz, but I'm not persuaded. I still say “Chrismukkah” is a bad idea.