The December Dilemma

Whether you ignore Christmas altogether or celebrate it with non-Jewish friends or family, the holiday provokes a lot of emotions.

The weeks leading up to Christmas are a time when many American Jews, even those who are not religiously observant or do not think often about their Jewish identity, feel conscious of being Jewish and not being part of the Christian majority.

Whether you ignore Christmas altogether (not so easy amid the commercials, office parties, holiday decorations etc.), use it as an excuse to go to a movie and eat Chinese food, or celebrate it with non-Jewish friends or family, the holiday — and its proximity to Hanukkah — can provoke a lot of emotions. Parents often feel pressure to make Hanukkah extra elaborate to quell their children’s (or their own) Christmas envy.

For interfaith families in particular, December can be a stressful time, demanding decisions about whether to celebrate one or both holidays and how to deal with hurt feelings or disapproval from extended family.

Below are some articles (from a wide range of perspectives) and resources for those grappling with, or simply wanting to learn more about, the “dilemma.” Feel free to add more suggestions in the comments section. Scroll down for articles that are interfaith family-specific.


History of Jews and Christmas

How Christmas Transformed Hanukkah in America

Taking the Christmas Out of Hanukkah

Why I’m Having My Jewish Kids Decorate a Christmas Tree

You Need to Talk to Your Jewish Kids About Santa

I Celebrate Hanukkah — But Here’s Why I Love Christmas

Should Hanukkah Be the Jewish Christmas?

The Joy of Not Celebrating Christmas

Ask the Expert: Should I Go to My Office’s Christmas Party?

The Jews Who Did Christmas

How to Lose the Chip on Your Shoulder During Christmas

When You Feel Like the Only Kid in Town Without a Christmas Tree

An Overdue Apology to Santa from a Nice Jewish Girl

Don’t Let Your Kids Ruin Santa for Their Christian Friends

The Jewish Mother’s Guide to Surviving Santa

santa hanukkah menorah christmas tree

Can You Celebrate Both Hanukkah and Christmas? Tips For Interfaith Families

A great resource for interfaith families (and not just in December) is InterfaithFamily, which offers a Guide to December Holidays for Interfaith Families along with numerous blog posts/essays about navigating the December holidays.

Holiday Tips for Interfaith Families

Enough Already With the Christmas Wars!

The Great Hanukkah Christmas Debate Roundup

Why I’m Not Afraid of Natalie Portman’s Christmas Tree

An Apology to My Husband: Sorry for Ruining Christmas, Again

The Interfaith Evergreen Dilemma

Oy, Tannenbaum: There’s a Christmas Tree in My Dining Room

How We Celebrate Both Hanukkah and Christmas

A Rabbi’s Take on the Whole Celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah Thing

Actually You Can’t Celebrate Both Hanukkah and Christmas

Out of the Home for Christmas

My Family Tree is Loaded With Tinsel

My Jewish Son’s Love of Christmas

Cheery and Challenging Hanukkah-Christmas Chatter

Shedding Light on One Family’s December Dilemma

Explore Hanukkah’s history, global traditions, food and more with My Jewish Learning’s “All About Hanukkah” email series. Sign up to take a journey through Hanukkah and go deeper into the Festival of Lights.

Discover More

Hanukkah 101

From candle-lighting to Maccabees and latkes to dreidels.

How to Play Dreidel

Learn how to play this Hanukkah game with our video and written instructions.

What You Need to Know About the Hanukkah Story

The Maccabean revolt and the miracle of the oil.