Chanukah or Christmas, Chanumas or Christikah … that is the question. In the olden days our faith was often more consistent and predictable, but in today’s world many families are interfaith. How does a family celebrate the holidays when one parent is a Christian and the other is Jewish?
In many homes this discussion leads to a battle: “Will we promote my faith, your faith or no faith?” In many homes the result is to promote no faith, and let the child decide. But to let the child decide without parental input will ultimately lead to failure: for the door is open to anything and everything when parents take a hands off approach.
The decision of what to do in December, a month of faith is important for every family. As people we are created with a desire to believe … something. History teaches this: every culture which has ever existed has a faith component. Absence of faith causes people to desire; weak faith causes people to look for something stronger. In a world with radicalized faith options, it is important for parents to teach good faith in a strong way.
The Bible, both Jewish and Christian, gives the instruction: “No other nation is as great as we are. Their gods do not come near them, but the Lord our God comes near when we pray to him. 8 And no other nation has such good teachings and commands as those I am giving to you today. … Don’t forget them as long as you live, but teach them to your children and grandchildren.” (Deuteronomy 4:7-9)
But in families with dual (or dueling) faith traditions the discussion of religion can lead to battles. As parents we do not want to battle each other or our children over faith issues. During the month of December there is really not a no-faith option, so what is a family to do?
The discussion about the holiday season should start with one statement: Jesus was Jewish. Within that statement we open a door: the Christian faith and the Jewish faith should fit together. Across the centuries these two faiths have drifted apart, forged individual identifications and set up battle zones. And in doing so we forget that Christianity was born out of Judaism. Judaism contains the foundation for the Christian faith.
With this basis, families need to realize, if an interfaith family thinks it through and plans, they might not be so far apart. There are several resources available to help interfaith families share faith in such a way that both Chanukah and Christmas get even billing. One such resource is found on the website KosherCopy. A new book, Advent Journeys has been written by an interfaith family for interfaith families. This book contains both readings for Chanukah and Christmas. The authors provide a calendar and instructions on how to use the book.
When children see parents who think through and plan the holidays, they will enjoy the season more thoroughly. Faith will not be absent from the home, and children will feel the openness to explore each faith. Agreement and love between parents will be understood because each parent gets a season and way to share the things they feel are important in their faith.
This season, whether you call it Chanukah or Christmas, Chanumas or Christikah seek to teach faith. Your children will appreciate you, as their parent, because you show them how to cross what many other believe to be impossible boundaries.