Jewish children often
feel a sense of alienation during the Christmas/Hanukkah season.
Stores and houses are filled with decorations for a holiday Jewish
children don’t celebrate. Well-meaning strangers ask, “What are you
getting for Christmas?” “Have you put up your tree yet?” and Jewish
children feel awkward answering. Schools often center art projects
and assemblies on Christmas, and some children and adults who know
little about Judaism say in amazement, “You mean you don’t celebrate
Young Jewish children may feel they’re missing something. A holiday
when parents are off from work and presents are placed beneath a
decorated tree can seem enticing: “Can’t we get a Christmas tree too
and still celebrate Hanukkah?” “Do we get as many presents at
Hanukkah as kids who celebrate Christmas?”
Jewish children can also feel resentment and anger that their
holiday, Hanukkah, is not treated as Christmas is: “Why are there
Christmas decorations everywhere? Why not Hanukkah decorations?”
“Not everybody celebrates Christmas. They should care about other
people’s religions.” These feelings stem from a child’s desire to be
treated equally and fairly. A six- to nine-year-old wants to be like
her friends and classmates. At Christmas, Jewish children become
acutely aware of the differences between themselves and their
Jewish parents should let their child express her feelings and they
should try to understand her anger. They should then use the holiday
season to talk about the differences between religions, the feelings
of minorities, and the meaning of various holidays in our diverse
culture. Although Hanukkah is not as religiously significant to Jews
as Christmas is to Christians, the two often are linked because of
their closeness on the calendar and because gifts are given for
both. Jewish children should be taught the importance of their own
holiday and should be helped to enjoy it for the cultural,
historical, and religious occasion that it is.
To help your child focus on the positive side of the holiday season,
try recreating Hanukkah activities you remember from your child
hood. Ask your child how she’d like to mark the holiday: baking and
cooking, playing games, making cards and gifts. Encourage a sense of
community by inviting friends and relatives over to light the
Hanukkah candles during the holiday’s eight nights. Ask your child’s
teacher if she’d like you to make a class presentation on Hanukkah.
Many Jewish families help their Christian friends decorate a tree.
This is one way to share the enjoyment of the holiday season. Also
be sure your child has an opportunity during the holidays to perform
community service with you or otherwise help you give to people in
During this season, as at other times, show the behavior you’d like
your child to adopt. Let her see your enthusiasm for Hanukkah and
understanding and respect for the religious beliefs of others.
Eventually she will be able to enjoy her own holiday and observe the
celebration of Christmas without feeling left out.