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On Being Jewish During Christmas

Updated on November 5, 2012

What does it mean to be Jewish during Christmas?

Being Jewish during Christmas is not just about eating Chinese food Christmas Eve while everyone else is in mass (why they go to Massachusetts is beyond me....can't they celebrate Christmas at home?). Seriously, as I was raised in the Jewish tradition, our holiday season was Chanukah - we got 8 days and the Christians got 12. Bummer. Regardless, since I had few meshugenah (crazy) friends, I sort of immersed myself in the Christmas traditions anyway. So, as a teenager, I dutifully went to mass (long ride...), watched with a sort of horror as the priest filled the church with some sort of smoke that made me cough, turned and hugged strangers, etc. And, then? My friends and I went to a Chinese restaurant. So, you see, being Jewish during Christmas was not all that different really than being Christian. Except, it was....

There's no such thing as a Chanukah Bush

If are Jewish and have children, there surely will come a time in your life when your little ones ask you why they can't have a Christmas tree. "There's no such thing as a Chanukah bush" is a wonderful story written by Sandy Goldstein to help explain why Jewish people don't celebrate Christmas.

I won't tell you the full movie but a memorable conversation between wee Robin and her Grandfather goes like this when Robin says "Christmas trees are so beautiful," and Grandpa responds, "Yes, they are. And isn't it nice that we have friends who share theirs with us? pageants

These are the most amazing parents any child, Jewish or not, could ask for.

These are the most amazing parents any child, Jewish or not, could ask for.
These are the most amazing parents any child, Jewish or not, could ask for.

Blending being a Jew with Christmas

Now, if you're on the other side of the fence, or have a multi-denominational family, there are some ways to blend being Jewish with Christmas.

There is a theory that if you can't beat 'em, join 'em so here's a few items on Amazon that are fun ways to blend being a Jew during Christmas. Enjoy! And please don't yell at me if you disagree. To each his own.

A list of benefits to being Jewish during Christmas

Now, I'd be meshugenah if I said that being Jewish during Christmas was all bad; there really are some good parts. A few of these are listed below.

Feel free to add to the list - you hear me you Jews out there!!!?

  1. We get to eat at the Chinese restaurant with no crowd. You guy are all on your way to your Christmas celebration, mass (travels again), or off to Grandma's house.
  2. Stores are empty with bargains galore. The day after Christmas is a Jewish person's personal mecca. You guys are hung over or still burping up your Christmas feast while we Jews are off and running. So what that the only thing that's on sale are Christmas decorations and Christmas wrapping papers. Hey, a deal's a deal...
  3. On the rare occasion when Chanukah coincides with Christmas, we get gold coins (Chanukah gelt) and you don't. We also get to sing "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" and, well, you don't....wait, is that a benefit?

Chanukah decorations

Just because I'm Jewish doesn't mean my home can't be festive. These Hanukah decorations put me in the holiday spirit.

More pontifications on being Jewish during Christmas

There's some pretty interesting opinions on the internet about being Jewish during Christmas. I've selected a few articles or websites that you might enjoy. Peruse away!

A poll about being Jewish during Christmas

Growing up, we didn't celebrate Christmas but I was raised by the axiom "to each his own." I'm curious as to what you think about Jewish people celebrating Christmas. Is it ok or not?

Anyone reading this Squidoo lens may participate so make your voice heard.

Do you think it's okay for Jewish people to celebrate Christmas?

Sure; It's cruel and unusual punishment to keep little kids from celebrating Christmas. Period.

Sure; It's cruel and unusual punishment to keep little kids from celebrating Christmas. Period.

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    • Sammy24 4 years ago

      I know a lot of Muslims who have Christmas trees! C'mon Santa is like a superhero. When kids get older they will know the truth...why not celebrate?

    • Joan Haines 5 years ago

      The cultural parts of christmas are pretty much free rein, right? who doesn't love Santa, reindeer, decorations, and eggnog with rum?

    • DreamsBloom 5 years ago

      I think there are sort of two "Christmas's" now. A secular Christmas and a non-secular Christmas. Christmas is becoming less just for Christians anymore. For example, I see more stuff about Christmas being popular in Asian countries now where a not a lot of people aren't necessarily Christians (in fact apparently Christmas is considered a romantic holiday for couples in some places like Japan).

      There is a side of Christmas that Christians need to keep strong and actually strengthen, this is the original purpose of the holiday, because it is a part of their faith.

      But all of the other traditions of Christmas that are not specifically about Christ is something I think everyone should be allowed to share. After all, things like the decorated trees were actually pagan (not Christian) in origin. And the idea of giving and spending time with friends, family and loved one are universal. So why not have parts of this holiday that Jews, Buhddists, Shintoists, atheists, etc. celebrate? The fact is, they are anyway.

    • Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

      I say everyone should celebrate however they like.

    No way, Jose (or Moshe). Being a Jew means celebrating your own holidays. Leave Chrismas to the Christians among us.

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      Some things I felt a little different about when being a Jew during Christmas

      I grew up (and remain) right outside Washington, DC - the site of the largest, most decorated Christmas tree in America. As a younger child, every year my friends would go watch the President light the Christmas tree while I stayed home wishing I could go with them. And, in all honesty, I could have as my parents, although raised orthodox Jews, had settled into a mix of reformed or conservative Jewish adult life so I could have tagged along. But, it just didn't seem right.

      As an adult, I've been to the Christmas tree lighting multiple times and even walked around through the Pathway of Peace. I've huddled near the yule tide log as it burned warmly during snowy nights. And, it was all good. I've had a wonderful time during these occasions, filled with friends, a few cocktails and general merriment. If I had bred (which I didn't - whew!), I would probably have taken my children to these festivities.

      I personally don't have a problem with Jewish children enjoying Christmas traditions any more than I have with the Christians who surround my Mom and me at our Chanukah table. But, growing up, I did have some resentments - maybe that's too strong a word. Longings is more like it. The below are some things that I missed while being a Jew during Christmas.

      1. I liked the decorations on the houses surrounding ours, and I still do. I wished that our house could glow with merrily lit bushes. I never was one for those Santa globes, and still am not but, again, to each his own.
      2. I wished we had a Christmas tree but not for the reasons you may think. I love the smell of balsam or pine so I do bring those smells into the house during the holiday season these days. I now use candles or pine boughs decorating my mantle.
      3. I missed being in the Christmas pageants. Back in the day, my folks didn't encourage me to participate in Christmas pageants so I didn't. In fact, they probably discouraged me but I don't hold that against them. I never was much of a singer anyway so perhaps they were just being protective.
      4. I remember all of my friends telling me about waking up Christmas morning and riding their shiny new bikes. Now, don't get me wrong - as a Jewish child born to the most wonderful parents in the world, I had everything I ever wanted and a bit more. But, our presents came after a long day culminating in Chanukah dinner and that was a l-o-n-g time to wait for a young Jewish child.

        Please don't chide me - I know that neither Chanukah or Christmas is about presents but try to tell the young child within me that.

      5. I missed having the opportunity to say "I hope we have a white Chanukah" - especially on those years when Chanukah came in the beginning of November.

      I'm afraid that I this lens On being Jewish during Christmas may put me in front of a few firing lines but I hope not. Regardless, please leave me comments.

      Am I mesugenah for writing this Squidoo lens?

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        • mariacarbonara profile image

          mariacarbonara 4 years ago

          Its nice that you can take part in both now. But I can understand feeling left out a bit as a child

        • MelanieMurphyMyer profile image

          MelanieMurphyMyer 4 years ago

          This is fantastic! I actually read every word, learned a lot about you and Jewish people in general, and even laughed out loud a couple times. Well done. I love your writing style. Blessed by a SquidAngel who recently got her wings. 0:-)

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          anonymous 4 years ago

          I loved your article, and you are not meshugenah, just really fun! You might enjoy this musical take on the same subject : youtube.com/watch?v=NnkbdF4gLAg

        • dave-sutton profile image

          dave-sutton 5 years ago

          As a boy I had a very good Jewish friend. How I loved going round his house for tea. The whole family would sit around the table which was loaded with so many goodies and treats. I will never forget the friendliness of everyone and being treated like part of the family. Never realised you did not celebrate Christmas as such.

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          Pete Schultz 5 years ago

          Learn something new every day....we had Jewish neighbors a block or two away and I never thought about how they celebrated...or didn't during the holidays aside from the menorah in their house when we visited.

        • Joan Haines profile image

          Joan Haines 5 years ago

          How fun to hear your point-of-view about Christmas! I love it. You've addressed what many people wonder about. Thanks for being candid and funny to boot.

        • Virginia Allain profile image

          Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

          I pretty much took Christmas for granted until I had a brother-in-law who was Jehovah Witness and didn't celebrate anything, not even birthdays. Always interesting to see other views than what we've always thought.

        • DreamsBloom profile image

          DreamsBloom 5 years ago

          Love this lens. I don't find it offensive. I hope I don't sound offensive when I say I love learning stuff about Jews (where I come from almost everyone is Mormon while a few are Baptists and a couple other variations of Christianity). So hearing your perspective on Christmas was interesting and fun (I love your sense of humor).

          Anyway...sorry for my ultra-long comment on your poll. :)

        • Scarlettohairy profile image

          Peggy Hazelwood 5 years ago from Desert Southwest, U.S.A.

          You have absolutely nothing to apologize for! It sounds like you had and have a wonderful time during the holidays. Merry Christmas, Lori. Happy Chanukah! Feliz Navidad! Like you said, it's all good.

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          AlleyCatLane 5 years ago

          I think how a person celebrates any holiday is entirely up to them and how they choose to practice their religious beliefs. I only get upset when some people try to prevent others from celebrating traditional ways because it is "politically correct." Why can't we all embrace and respect each others traditions?