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Curious Kids: The Holiday FAQ
By ISJL Education Fellow Rachel Katz
December is a month filled with a lot of holiday spirit. Family and friends get together to celebrate the holidays with each other—whatever those holidays may be. It is easy to walk by a store window and see Christmas decorations. Go inside, and you may be lucky enough to find some Chanukah decorations. Amidst the joy of the holidays, Jewish children may have some questions about religion and traditions that are not their own.
How do we answer those questions? For your own knowledge, you can start off by reading about the history of Jews and Christmas. Now, on to the FAQs!
“What do I say back to the cashier that wishes me a ‘Merry Christmas?’”
Think about it more as them wishing you happy holidays rather than just a Merry Christmas. It is all about the kind gesture. You can respond in many different ways. A simple thank you is always nice. You can even say “Thank you. You, too.” Don’t be afraid to tell the truth. “I don’t celebrate Christmas, but Happy Holidays to you.” Rather than being upset with their assumption, use it as an opportunity to immerse yourself in the holiday spirit.
“What are we supposed to do on Christmas?”
Christmas is not a time when we need to hide or feel different from others. It is a time for us to recognize that, as Jews, we are part of this big world full of people. On Christmas, we can do that by celebrating our neighbors’ joy. We can send our friends of different faiths holiday presents and learn about their traditions. There is a Christmas Day tradition that Jews all around have participated in: going to the movies and eating Chinese food. We can do fun activities with our friends and families. Plus, it’s never too early to start getting ready for the New Year.
“How can we create the same holiday spirit that everyone else has?”
It can be easy to get overwhelmed during Christmas time. But it is important to remember that the spirit of the holiday season is to celebrate the people around us. That can be done in many different ways. We can throw a holiday party for our friends and family, give back to the community, or even take time to learn about other holidays. We can stand up for ourselves and educate our neighbors on our traditions, but our role as community members is not to be sour in the face of other people’s joy.
Questions like “why doesn’t Santa come down our chimney” and “can we still go to Christmas parties” can have many different answers. It is up to you as to how you choose to respond to your children. The above questions and answers are more general and hopefully offer you support when tackling some of the simplest yet trickiest of our children’s curiosities.