New Study Answers if You Can be Jewish and Celebrate Christmas
“Merry Christmas” Not an Issue for Interfaith Families Raising Their Children Jewish
[ClickPress, Tue Nov 28 2006] In its new December Holidays Survey, InterfaithFamily.com, an independent non-profit publisher and advocacy organization, found what celebrating Christmas means for the growing number of interfaith families now choosing to raise their children Jewish. The way that interfaith families address this issue is important in America’s increasingly multicultural society and can serve as a roadmap for tolerance of others’ beliefs and traditions
“We would expect interfaith parents raising Jewish children to be among the most concerned about the Christmas activity around them,” said Edmund Case, publisher and president of InterfaithFamily.com. “The parents are in a tricky situation--trying to impart a Jewish heritage to their children who are exposed to Christmas both inside and outside of the family. However, respondents to our December Holidays Survey reported they felt they were able to successfully strike a balance between Hanukkah and Christmas.”
These issues come in the midst of the debate over retailers saying “Merry Christmas” rather than “Happy Holidays” to their customers.
The results of InterfaithFamily.com’s third annual survey suggest that interfaith families would not be offended by being greeted with “Merry Christmas” because the vast majority of interfaith families raising their children Jewish participate in Christmas as well as Hanukkah celebrations and teach their children to respect the traditions of non-Jewish family members and friends. Only 10 percent said they would tell their non-Jewish relatives not to give their children Christmas gifts.
InterfaithFamily.com’s survey found that these families make clear distinctions between the holidays, and give priority to Hanukkah. While they don’t see Hanukkah as an extremely religious holiday, they overwhelmingly see Christmas as a secular family celebration. Very few of these families expect to tell the Christmas story or attend Christmas services at church. Because they see Christmas as a secular, not religious, holiday, they are unlikely to worry about the religious connotations of a Christmas greeting.
The majority of interfaith families raising their children Jewish take part in Christmas celebrations of friends or relatives, but mostly limit their participation to giving and receiving gifts and eating Christmas foods. In the written portions of the survey, many respondents attributed their participation in Christmas celebrations to respect for non-Jewish relatives and a desire to teach their children tolerance. Three-quarters of the respondents say that participating in Christmas celebrations will not negatively impact their children’s Jewish identity; some even said that participating in both holidays strengthens their family’s Jewish identity because it forces them to discuss and address their choices.
Key findings include:
• 99 percent plan on celebrating Hanukkah, 89 percent plan on celebrating Christmas.
• 99 percent of respondents plan on lighting a menorah and 93 percent plan on giving gifts as part of their Hanukkah celebration.
• 51 percent plan on giving gifts at home as part of Christmas, but 77 percent plan on giving gifts in the home of a friend or relative.
• Less than half (44 percent) plan on decorating a Christmas tree at home.
• 78 percent plan on keeping their Hanukkah and Christmas celebrations separate, and 75 percent thought the blended holiday Chrismukkah was a bad idea.
• Only 5 percent plan on telling the Christmas story at home while 63 percent plan on telling the Hanukkah story at home. Only 18 percent plan on attending religious services for Christmas.
• 23 percent report that their Hanukkah celebrations will be more secular than religious, while 79 percent report that their Christmas celebrations will be more secular than religious.
• 48 percent of the Jewish parents feel more uncomfortable than uncomfortable with having a Christmas tree in the house.
For more, read the attached report “What We Learned from the Third Annual December Holidays Survey.”
InterfaithFamily.com (www.interfaithfamily.com) is an independent non-profit publisher and advocacy membership association that works to encourage Jewish choices by interfaith families and increase acceptance of interfaith families by the Jewish community. InterfaithFamily.com publishes a bi-weekly online magazine that reaches out directly to interfaith families, delivering helpful, non-judgmental information about handling situations that arise in interfaith families. InterfaithFamily.com also produced the first-of-its-kind anthology, The Guide to Jewish Interfaith Family Life: An InterfaithFamily.com Handbook (Jewish Lights Publishing), to offer much-needed support for interfaith families seeking to explore Jewish life. InterfaithFamily.com is the only national organization that focuses exclusively on reaching out to and helping interfaith families themselves, and advocating on a grass-roots level as their "voice.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: InterfaithFamily.com has developed a resource page for interfaith families dealing with the December holidays that includes resources such as “Handling the December Holidays: Eight Tips from InterfaithFamily.com” and numerous articles that help interfaith families have a more enjoyable and meaningful holiday season. For more, visit http://www.interfaithfamily.com/decemberholidays.