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Oh Christmas Tree: A Discussion Packet

It's not an elephant in the room--it's just a little pine tree.

Want to talk about it?

How do interfaith families decide whether to have a Christmas tree? Does it depend on whether you are religiously observant of Judaism? Of Christianity? Does it bother the Jewish partner to have one, or the non-Jewish partner not to have one?

Christmas tree image

One thing we don't know for sure is what having a Christmas tree means for the children of interfaith families. Jewish social scientists assume that it's an indicator of lack of commitment to Jewish life. Interfaith families, on the other hand, disagree. According to's survey data, most interfaith families raising Jewish children who have Christmas trees at home view them as secular symbols.

The whole question may turn out to be a big evergreen red herring. Since the Jewish community has been more welcoming of children of interfaith families, other factors than pine needles in the carpeting may be more important. For children who go to Hebrew school, have bar and bat mitzvah ceremonies, light Shabbat candles and go to Jewish camp, a Christmas tree may not have any religious signficance or confuse them as to their Jewish identity.

In the meantime, the choice about whether to have a Christmas tree at home and how to think about it is an important relationship question for interfaith couples.

It's not an elephant in the room--it's just a little pine tree.

Want to talk about it? Try our new discussion packet for interfaith couples called Oh Christmas Tree (PDF) (Also available in Word format.)

Hebrew for "daughter of the commandments." In modern Jewish practice, Jewish girls come of age at 12 or 13. When a girl comes of age, she is officially a bat mitzvah and considered an adult. The term is commonly used as a short-hand for the bat mitzvah's coming-of-age ceremony and/or celebration. The male equivalent is "bar mitzvah." The Jewish Sabbath, from sunset on Friday to nightfall on Saturday. A language of West Semitic origins, culturally considered to be the language of the Jewish people. Ancient or Classical Hebrew is the language of Jewish prayer or study. Modern Hebrew was developed in the late-19th and early 20th centuries as a revival language; today it is spoken by most Israelis.

InterfaithFamily is the premier resource supporting interfaith couples exploring Jewish life and inclusive Jewish communities. We offer educational content; connections to welcoming organizations, professionals and programs; resources and trainings for organizations, clergy and other program providers; and our new InterfaithFamily/Your Community initiative providing coordinated comprehensive offerings in local communities.

If you have suggestions, please contact network at interfaithfamily dot com.

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