We celebrate both Hanukkah (Chanukah) and Christmas, since I’m Jewish and my husband was raised Catholic. On one hand, our kids get the best of both worlds and learning about multiple cultures. On the other hand, however, it just doubles the amount of work and obligations during the holiday season. The struggles of raising interfaith kids during the holidays are real, especially this year, when Chanukah and Christmas overlap. It’s even more challenging to distinguish the two holidays when the first night of Chanukah is on Christmas Eve, and you’re tripping over dreidels to stick gifts under the tree, while simultaneously wondering, "What does any of this mean to us?"
I am not religious, but have carried on some of the cultural traditions I’ve learned from my Jewish, New York City based family. For example, we explain the story of Chanukah to the kids; how a drop of oil that was only supposed to last one night miraculously lasted for eight, extending the length of time the temple was lit so the Jews could rebuild their community after it had been seized by foes. To honor my husband’s Christmas traditions, we hang white lights and stuff stockings and, when the kids were little and didn’t fight us on their outfits, we’d dress them in adorable, elf-like ensembles.
Still, combining our cultures is not without its challenges. We have to explain to the kids that it’s important to respect the history of their parents’ different upbringing, even if we don’t believe in all the spiritual aspects of them. To know those things is to understand where we came from, what influenced our families to make the choices they did, and why my husband and I choose not to subscribe to any particular religious teachings. I'm sure the "easy" thing to do would be to simply say, “Happy holidays,” exchange gifts, and be done with it. However, if you want your kids to learn what these particular holidays mean to you, as an interfaith family, you have to do the work and deal with the crazy struggles of raising interfaith kids during the holidays: