Raising Children With Two Religions: At Hanukkah

This time of year, interfaith families scour the internet for advice on celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas. For those who celebrate both December holidays, I thought I would post a roundup of the many pieces I have written on how we celebrate Hanukkah in our “raising them both” family.

My interfaith kids have always loved Hanukkah, even though we also celebrate Christmas. And my mother and husband, both Christian, love harmonizing as we sing around the candles. One of my most popular Hanukkah posts was the five reasons you do not have to fear that Hanukkah will be overshadowed by Christmas.

By the time our kids were teens, we put most of the Hanukkah gift emphasis on the importance of giving to others. Although we also treated them to a Matisyahu concert one year. I later admitted that going to a rock club on a weeknight did contribute to interfaith holiday burnout that year.

Last year, I wrote an overview of celebrating Hanukkah, Advent, Christmas and Yule in our family, along with my photo of a Hanukkah cookie. It may have been the enticing cookie that lured WordPress into selecting the post to be featured on Freshly Pressed. (I am proud to use my own photos on most of my posts).

I also wrote a piece for Huffington Post last year on celebrating both holidays in our family. In response, a blogger for the Forward wrote an outraged post in the form of a letter excoriating me. While her post was filled with misunderstandings (we absolutely do not celebrate Chrismukkah), I hope that our exchange helped to explain to a wider audience why many interfaith families are teaching their children both religions.

This year, I feel lucky because Hanukkah comes relatively early (December 8th to 16th), minimizing any awkward overlap for those of us who like to keep the holidays separate.

And we do keep them separate. For our family, part of the point of celebrating both is giving each religion (and each holiday) proper space and respect and meaning. So, no Hanukkah bush or star-of-David treetoppers for us. A Christmas tree is a Christmas tree. And a menorah is a menorah (or a chanukiah, as some folks prefer to call them these days), even when it is made of plexiglass and holds glow sticks instead of candles, like the menorah I am sending today to our daughter, who now lives far away in a college dorm where she cannot light candles because of the fire laws. Sigh. I know I will see my daughter at Christmas, but it is hard to realize that she will only be nearby for Hanukkah on the years of crazy holiday overlap.

Which reminds me, whichever holidays you celebrate in your family, treasure each Hanukkah, each Christmas, each Eid, each Diwali, each Solstice with your children. Too soon, they will be out and away in the great world, and you can only hope that they will be warmed by the nostalgic glow of family holiday memories. At our house, we try not to miss an opportunity to create those memories.

 

Susan Katz Miller is the author of Being Both: Embracing Two Religions in One Interfaith Family, from Beacon Press. She works as an interfaith families consultant, speaker, and coach. Follow her on twitter @susankatzmiller.

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Explore posts in the same categories: Christianity, holidays in interfaith families, Interfaith children, Interfaith Identity, Judaism

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3 Comments on “Raising Children With Two Religions: At Hanukkah”


  1. Susan, great piece and I will share it. Yes, I am missing my older daughter already as we celebrate each of these holidays! And she is asking me how she will celebrate when she’s away in college. I especially like the glow stick menorah idea! Take care, Kate

  2. martha katz Says:

    Like this. Dennis just finished putting multi colored lights and a Santa light up woodstock for Christmas in one front window and blue and white lights (Hanukah) in the other window of our little brick house. 🙂

  3. Jewaicious Says:

    I grew up in a bi-religious household…my father was Jewish, and my mother was Catholic.

    I was not raised Jewish, but Catholic, due to the era, my mother had to agree to raise me Catholic. I learned about Judaism through my father, here and there, and my Jewish Bubbe.

    I had to convert to Judaism, as an adult, in order to be considered Jewish, because the maternal side is the one to carry the Jewish lineage.

    I enjoyed my experience as a child of two parents who had differing religious beliefs. One thing they both shared in common was the love of family. Family was extremely important to them both, and I knew that, even as a child. Our celebrations were shared by all family members, each member respecting the beliefs of my parents.


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