Celebrating holidays cross-religion?

In writing yesterday's post I realized that my kids have been excited ever since Hanukkah started. We're Christian, but they go to public school in NYC so there are plenty of kids who celebrate Hanukkah, so they're well aware of when it happens and the basic outline of activities, if not the actual history.

(My older son, in fact, said to me a week or so ago, "Mom, do you think I'll get as much stuff for Christmas as I would have for Hanukkah if we were Jewish?" Which is a funny question, but then when you consider the layers of escalating commercialism on all sides of that equation it starts to make your head hurt.)

So I was thinking that maybe next year in the middle of Advent we'll do some Hanukkah menorah lighting, too, so the kids can get a little cross-cultural history and tradition, remved from the idea of eight nights of presents.

One of my Facebook friends, who is Jewish, said that her son wanted an Advent calendar, and I thought, "Why not?"

So what do you think about celebrating holidays that are not your religion or culture's holidays?

Does it matter if the aspects you celebrate are religious in nature (like lighting candles) or secular (putting up a tree)?

Is it disrespectful? Or bridging gaps?

Will your kids be confused? Or enriched?

Thoughts?

78 thoughts on “Celebrating holidays cross-religion?”

  1. As a teacher and upcoming parent, I think that it’s important to pass on your beliefs and values to your child. I also think it’s important to make sure that they know that not everyone believes what they do and that that diversIty enriches our communities. That being said, I also feel that paying lip service to any tradition important to anyone’s culture or belief system just to provide exposure is disrespectful to those who hold it dear.

  2. It feels icky to me to do the religious parts — “This is what we’d do if we believed”– but OK to do the minor trappings. Which is to say, latkes yes, menorah no.

  3. I have mixed, and maybe not fair, feelings about this. As a Jewish family growing up in a mostly Christian community (country), I think my kids are exposed to plenty of Christmas traditions, that doing something like an Advent calendar would dilute our own traditions. Somehow I feel that doing something for a minority religion would be fine (I know this may not be fair or may be biased). That said, I think the ideal way to learn about other cultures/religions is probably to observe/partake in their customs, rather than trying to replicate them. For instance, attend a menorah lighting ceremony or a Chinese New Year celebration, rather than trying to have a piece of it at one’s own home. Just a thought though and I’m not sure what the right answer is.

  4. I agree with the first two posters. I don’t think it makes sense to practice the religious rituals of another religion in your home. But I do think it is a good idea to observe them, so if you want your kids to get a taste, ask a Jewish friend to invite you over for a couple nights next year so your kids can see the menorah being lit and the prayers recited. I used to help decorate my best friend’s Christmas tree every year, and I loved it–but because I was able to have that experience, I never needed to ask for my own family to have a tree.

  5. Living in bi-religious situation, there has never really been an issue… so far. Now that there is a baby, it may be different. However, I am not going to worry about things too much, things usually work themselves out on their own. I feel happy that my baby will have my culture, her dad’s and that of the country where we live. She will probably be more German (said country) than anything… Time will tell!

  6. It’s not the sort of equation that works both ways. The needs of a minority religion wrt observance of their own and others’ religious traditions are different than the needs of an established AND/OR State AND/OR majority religion. Minority religions tend to worry a great deal about assimilation. It would certainly make the lives of most minority religion adherents in the US to just go Christian.That all being said, I am not religious or spiritual. I was raised by non-believers, in a strongly ethnic Jewish environment. I intermarried, as did my brother (twice!) So we have the Christmas/Hannukah thing a little bit, but it is way more complicated than that. My husband, while raised non-denominationally and minimally Christian, is also the product of an intermarriage (of a Christian and another atheist, secular Jew.) And then what? years after our marriage, he goes and converts to Judaism… pretty much out of the blue.
    So things are a bit odd. We never took Hannukah very seriously, because it is not one of the major holidays. Its proximity to Christmas is convenient for some people’s purposes, but this is not our holiday season. Our holiday season in in the very early fall. So if you want to provide crosscultural understanding by celebrating aspects of others’ religions, Hannukah is a pretty goofy choice.
    We always treated Hannukah gifts as very small things… gelt (money), chocolate gelt, art supplies. More art supplies. Hannukah was when all the glitter glue pens and magic markers and craypas got replenished 😉
    We always go to my dear MIL’s Christmas Day to “help her celebrate her holiday.” That has worked out very well. I think there’s a fine line there, and I am happy with the way it has worked out. The school stuff, not so much.

  7. I was raised Christian but we are not currently doing anything in the Christian faith in raising our kids. (We are considering joining a Unitarian Universalist Church to foster spiritality and because while I don’t miss the Church, I miss the traditions and fellowship of of attending service). ANYWAY – my daughter is enrolled in a Jewish preschool, one that teaches Jewish values and traditions and less the religious aspect of it. The enrollment is mixed at about 50/50 who are/aren’t Jewish. Since she learns and celebrates the Jewish holidays at school she usually wants to do the same at home. So, in the last 3 years we have learned the traditions around Chanukah and have a menorah at home. She knows we aren’t Jewish but we celebrate the story of the Maccabees – the bravery and honor of standing up for ourselves and what’s right.The funny thing is that during this time we only do secular things in relation to Christmas – the tree, a non-religious advent calendar, etc… I do want to teach her the biblical Christmas Story but I’m worried that until she’s out of her preschool she might get confused.

  8. I agree that celebrating the religious aspects of a religion you don’t participate in is odd. Observing, respecting, yes. But trying to make it a go in your own home? Not as much.

  9. I’m with Slim: yes latkes, no menorah. I grew up in a community with a lot of Jewish families, and I like to make latkes during Hannukah (not least, who doesn’t like to eat latkes? Well, my kids, but that means more for me!). I’d love to expose my kids to others religious traditions since we are personally a secular-Christian home, but I live in a not very diverse area, and I can see it being annoying for the one Jewish family in town to feel like it’s their responsibility to enlighten the rest of us, you know?

  10. My family of origin is Jewish and totally Christmas celebrating.Menorahs, gelt, latkes, and small presents for hanukah (now we celebrate annually with my non-Jewish friend and her daughter)
    Tree, roast beast, carols, and presents for Christmas.
    Peace on Earth, good will, what’s not to love?

  11. There is an interesting debate on this topic right now in Slate.com: http://www.slate.com/id/2277395/entry/2277397/I’m in an “interfaith” marriage also. My family is Jewish, but I identify with it more as a culture than a religion. I never felt comfortable with the religious aspect of Judaism (or any religion). I chose not to have a Bat Mitzvah, I don’t attend services for the High Holidays as an adult, but we do light the Menorah and sometimes attend a Passover Seder, if invited. Growing up, we never had a tree or even outside lights (which I never understood as a kid since Hanukkah is the festival of lights after all!).. I was fortunate enough to have a childhood best friend who is Greek Orthodox and was invited to have Christmas breakfast with her family every year, as well as Easter dinner. So I did get to observe the other side.
    My husband’s family is Catholic, but they are all non-practicing. Before our son was born, we celebrated secular Christmas with my in-laws, and now we do the same in our home with our son, who is 5.
    Since religion, and even spirituality are not very big parts of our lives, we tend to play it all down. But now that my son is getting older, I can see it is already getting a little complicated. As a matter of fact, he came home from school yesterday and told me all about God, based on what his friend at school told him, which is no doubt what the friend’s parents and/or Sunday school is teaching him. This makes me uncomfortable. I know he should be learning about this weighty stuff from us, but we really don’t have a strong stance on it. We are good, generous, law-abiding people, and I would not say we are atheists, but the idea of God and religion is just not a part of our daily lives. My response to my son was “Well, some people believe that and some people don’t.” It felt weak.
    I don’t want to hijack this post, or start a debate, but I’d love to hear how non-religious interfaith couples of preschool age kids deal with these issues and questions. I want to remain respectful and open to other people’s beliefs. Every now and then I contemplate the thought of the UU church, but my husband isn’t interested and honestly, daily life just gets in the way.

  12. Yes Latkes, no menorah. Anyone can put up a christmas tree without believing in baby jesus, but wouldn’t it feel disrespectful for the athiests to put out a nativity scene in the interests of diversity?

  13. I agree that it would be BETTER to share in religious traditions that are not your own with people of that tradition rather than doing it on your own, but I don’t think lighting a menorah would be disrespectful for a Christian to do. Perhaps this is because, as a Christian, I believe that it can be couched in terms of “This is what our forebears did.” I know Maccabees isn’t in a lot of Protestant Bibles, but it was in all Christian Bibles until the Reformation…so why not honor that story?I have also attended Seder suppers at Passover that combine the Jewish elements of Passover (the food, the story that is told, the role of the youngest child etc) with the Christian elements of Holy Week (here it’s just some prayers that get added/changed). Again, I think the intent is not to co-opt the tradition of another but to give Christians a glimpse into the Jewish world that Jesus lived in.
    I guess most important is that if you do try to show your kids what this or that holiday experience would be like, by doing it at home, that you be careful to be respectful of the tradition and how you speak of it, and as often as possible rely on friends of those traditions to guide you in what you decide to do and how you describe the meaning of the symbols, activities, etc.

  14. More than 40% of the kids at my daughter’s Jewish preschool are not Jewish. I personally know several families who have chosen to embrace what their children are learning at school and have chosen to add menorah-lighting to their winter holiday season. One little girl in my daughter’s class (who comes from a Catholic family) has repeatedly asked when they will be a Chanukah family. Will this continue past pre-school, who knows but for right now, as someone who is Jewish, it makes me happy to see families discussing the other holidays at this time of year.

  15. Hmmm…yeah. I’m an atheist, born and raised, from a mostly Christian background a couple generations back – and I’ve mainly thought about this with invitations to holidays from our observant Jewish cousins. I’ve always felt perfectly comfortable coming to Passover and participating fully (non-Jews seem to be welcomed, there’s a message there, independent of the god part, that’s really important). But I’ve turned down invitations to Yom Kippur break-fasts, for example, because it would be disrespectful to the atonement and more stringent religious practice taking place.I’m not sure about the menorah – my sense has been that hannukah isn’t a huge religious deal, but it might be odd to light the candles without the prayers. I feel a little odd that Mouse’s Jewish grandpa gives her hannukah presents but doesn’t seem interested in teaching her anything else about the holiday. (we’d welcome it and have told him so.)
    By the way, we received a lovely (and maybe sacriligious) holiday blessing the other day from the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence: “In the name of Saint Harvey Milk, may we keep hope alive in our hearts forever” …said with a casting of beautiful glitter into the night.
    So…yeah, don’t take religious advice from me, I know not whereof I speak. But for my non-believing brethren, I will say that most of us mean no disrespect, and the very fact of our non-belief should not be taken as disrespect. We like to be able to party with our believing friends when it’s appropriate; many of us, like me, feel a sense of wonder at the change of season and love singing in the dark and tiny lights. So you might find us at a church concert occasionally and I hope you won’t mind.

  16. I’m similar to Charisse, except the religion that encroaches from my family is Christian- Catholic on one side, Lutheran on the other.As atheists, we have no problem at all having a Christmas tree and lights, and talking about the spirit of love, giving, peace, etc. We don’t talk about the religious side of it, although I suppose we’ll explain that when our daughters are old enough to understand. At that time, we’ll probably also explain Hannukah, and the pagan underpinnings of some of the Christmas traditions.
    And even though I don’t believe, I love good religious music, and make a point to listen to Handel’s Messiah and some of my other favorites at this time every year. Listening to really beautiful classical music is as close as I get to believing in god- the expression of glory in the Messiah, or of pure joy in the transition from the 3rd to the 4th movement of Beethoven’s 5th… these are profoundly moving and I struggle to explain how they make me feel rationally.
    Anyway… my goal is to raise my girls to respect everyone’s beliefs, and to come to their own decisions about what they want to believe. My husband is less respectful of religion, though, so there will be some negotiations there. Because of my husband’s stronger atheist convictions, I don’t think we’ll ever bring any religious ceremony into our home, but I would argue that we should accept invitations to attend events with other people if the girls seemed interested.

  17. I don’t mind what other people choose to do in their homes, but as Jews we do not celebrate other religious traditions for two reasons. 1) Our traditions are great on their own! There are so many holidays to celebrate and so many different traditions that we don’t feel the need to add any others. 2) I find it a little disrespectful to celebrate the religious aspects of another person’s holidays. I’m not sure how to explain that further but I would feel wrong “taking” the religious aspects of another’s holiday when they have no meaning to us.

  18. Hmm… I always thought it was wise and wonderful for Christians to include Jewish tradition and practice as an acknowledgment of our shared ancestry and history. We keep a mezuzah on our doorframe and as a child in a Christian home, remember having a menorah up and even lighting candles at least a few times. It seems like respect comes from us holding up the tradition as part of our past rather than stealing the decor and gift-giving, which I concede would be a cheapening.We don’t “celebrate” other religious holidays (ramadan, norooz, vaisakhi, gudi padwa) since they truly aren’t ours in any way, but living as we do in a very multicultural community we are given many opportunities to notice and learn and participate when appropriate (hyacinths or wheatgrass for our Iranian neighbours for example).
    I don’t know – it seems to me like the question of whether or not it’s respectful has a lot to do with the heart with which these things are done. To rework my favourite line from “Riding With Boys”, ‘respect is what you take with you’.

  19. I was born and raised Hindu, but converted to Catholicism and married a Catholic.So we do celebrate festivals of Hinduism, as well as Christmas, and all the Catholic/Christian observances.
    But I think as long as you are celebrating with the true intention of the ritual, and you understand the ritual then I think it’s not hurting anyone. Religion to me is a pretty private/personal matter.
    My father has always said that “all waters lead to the same stream”, and for me that is how I approach religion. I know many do not feel the same way, but growing up in such a diverse world with many beliefs (and non-beliefs) I think how you celebrate is something that you decide (with your family).
    I do like that if you know people that practice the faith that you are interested in, exploring their customs, that you get to know them and their faith better. I think that makes it more authentic than just, for example, lighting a menorah of your own.
    Again this is all my personal opinion, and it was in no way posted to offend anyone.

  20. “I don’t want to hijack this post, or start a debate, but I’d love to hear how non-religious interfaith couples of preschool age kids deal with these issues and questions. I want to remain respectful and open to other people’s beliefs. Every now and then I contemplate the thought of the UU church, but my husband isn’t interested and honestly, daily life just gets in the way.”I’m an agnostic former Catholic and my husband is a non-practicing Catholic. I like the message they have at the UU church (which I have tried out a few times), but just don’t feel compelled to go every week.
    However, I have decided that if/when our daughter starts having questions about religion, I’ll take her to a UU church. I’d rather she go with me to a church that celebrates everyone’s beliefs and encourages people to think for themselves than have her start going to some other church out of curiosity.
    I have a friend who grew up in a non-religious household and then “rebelled” by going through a super religious phase. I just cannot imagine having my daughter grow up to join any kind of fundamentalist church.

  21. Thanks @Jessica! I have also heard stories about people who grew up without an organized religion becoming super religious. Which on the one hand, is fine — it is each person’s choice, but on the other hand, I might feel like I didn’t live up to one of my responsibilities as a parent if I did not have any direct influence on the decision. Maybe researching the UU again will be one of my New Year’s resolutions.

  22. I grew up next to an atheist family, and one of their children became LDS. Married someone else who was LDS — actually, I think he was a big reason she converted, because he was her high school boyfriend. Eventually she and her husband both left the church; she’s now Lutheran.Her parents were pretty calm about it, even though that religious choice meant they couldn’t attend her wedding. As much as possible, they worked to include one another in their lives and to remember that there is more to us than our religious affiliations, or lack thereof.

  23. I live in a city that’s totally bilingual and has just about every religion under the sun. Lots of Catholics, plenty of Protestants, a big Jewish community, a growing Muslim community, and on and on. Although some people complain and other are just plain ignorant, I find–for the most part–people practice their own religion at the holidays yet are very aware of the other religious traditions around.I don’t know that I’d incorporate Jewish customs at the holidays, when baby grow up, unless she specifically asks. Not that I don’t approve, just that our traditions are different. But I’ll certainly try to show her the diversity of her neighbours and hope she’s able to see the beauty that adds to our city and our relationships with the people here.

  24. Yeah, it’s not like I would disown my daughter if she became super religious. But I do feel that religion is something that is important enough that I should teach her *something.* So it makes more sense to me to find a group who thinks like I do (Unitarian Universalists) and expose her to those ideas. Otherwise who knows who will come along to fill in those gaps for her?In my opinion, it’s kind of like that study they talked about in Nurtureshock where avoiding talking about race ended up having the opposite intended effect in kids.

  25. Huh.I’m a devout atheist and we have the tree, the lights, I’ve had a nativity scene in the past (although I’m certainly not putting one out this year with three year olds, because somebody would undoubtedly nip off with the baby Jesus and we wouldn’t see him for months…although I suppose it would be oddly appropriate if he reappeared in April) and this year, we’re doing Luminarias.
    I haven’t had anybody complain so far.
    Also, a data point which you might consider related or insignificant: Sam and I found a church where the girls can attend Sunday School, since we consider it important to have a basic grounding in religion and religious history. When I called churches, I was very clear about us not being religious but wanting to attend. We were told that all were welcome, regardless of faith.

  26. @Stacy said: “We are good, generous, law-abiding people, and I would not say we are atheists, but the idea of God and religion is just not a part of our daily lives. My response to my son was “Well, some people believe that and some people don’t.” It felt weak.”I found the book “Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion” by Dale McGowan, to be extremely helpful. The author also blogs:
    http://parentingbeyondbelief.com/blog/

  27. Thanks @Hush! I’ll check that out!@Jessica — “So it makes more sense to me to find a group who thinks like I do (Unitarian Universalists) and expose her to those ideas. Otherwise who knows who will come along to fill in those gaps for her?” — Exactly! I agree completely.
    It’s easy for my husband and me to brush off religion and religious education now as adults, but we were both brought up with religion and had some form of religious education so we have a basis for our beliefs or non-beliefs. I worry about being too lax with our own child(ren) and not providing them a foundation that they may choose to embrace, expand on, or reject as adults. I actually have our local UU church website open in another tab as I write this.

  28. The discussion of interfaith questions is fascinating. I’m really enjoying everyone’s perspectives. I’m Catholic, and raising our children Catholic (that was one of the deals when DH & I got married – he’s been a great sport about all the classes he’s had to go to!). DH is an athiest, raised athiest by athiest parents – his father in particular has not neutral but actively hostile attitudes towards Catholicism in particular (the opiate of the ignorant masses, etc etc). But my DH did request that our children also be exposed to HIS beliefs (ie that it is possible to develop a full moral and ethical self without God) when they get older.@Hush, thanks for the link to McGowan’s site – I’ll send it on to my husband!
    As for the lighting the Menorah, I think I sympathize with the first couple of posters and suggest finding ways of inviting yourselves to Hanukkah celebrations of Jewish friends rather than appropriating Jewish symbols. Even with the best of intentions, such things can be disrespectful.

  29. hm. My family is interfaith – my husband is Jewish and I was raised Christian, with very devout parents who still attend church several times a week. But we are raising our children Jewish at my husband’s strenuous request. I’m still making my peace with this (my son’s bris was one of the worst days of my life) but as they get older I’m more committed to incorporating spirituality into our lives. We celebrate most holidays with my in-laws but Hanukkah is long enough that we were able to have a few days at home, too, making traditions for ourselves.We spend Christmas with my parents, so our kids have experience with a tree and stockings and the nativity story, etc. I like that they get to experience both holidays but I wouldn’t want those things in our house. That’s not what our family believes (my own personal beliefs are still being worked out but our FAMILY is Jewish) and I think they would dilute the message of Judaism a little, especially when we’re still feeling our way into religion. We are very clear that Christmas belongs to my parents and not us, although it’s fun to celebrate with them.
    I agree with previous posters that it’s better to experience other traditions with people of those faiths rather than trying to recreate rituals on your own.

  30. bi-religious situation… rightttt. I meant “interfaith”. Really need to brush up on my English (mother tongue)! Too long living away from an English speaking country…

  31. @Stacy- I was raised without any religion, although my parents would answer questions and bought me a children’s bible at my request. I also occasionally attended church with two of my friends in grade school- oddly, both were fundamentalists.Anyway, my parents taught me their values and morals without religion. It worked out OK.
    I guess my point is, I don’t think kids need a religious education if your heart isn’t into giving them one. You can teach the history and the stories without teaching the faith, if that is what feels right to you.

  32. My husband and I are both atheist and will raise our children (a toddler and one on the way) without religious instruction/practices/traditions. I am also a pre-school teacher and I absolutely see the need to answer and encourage further questions, much as my parents did when I was young and as @Cloud describes. (Just as a point of interest, I had absolutely no religious instruction as a child and my husband went to a Catholic school – we have both arrived at the same conclusion with the same rationale. I personally don’t feel you need to have a religious basis for making up your mind about religion as an adult). I do feel a bit weird myself when it comes to celebrating Christmas and Easter as I have no interest or beliefs around these kinds of holidays, yet the mainstream (and probably highly commercialised) versions are fun traditions that I was brought up with… So for us when our children are old enough to ask questions about religious festivals and celebrations we will answer and encourage learning about the history, but we will go out of our way not to include any religiousness in our own household celebrations.

  33. My husband is a convert to Catholicism, and I am a lapsed Catholic. Our son goes to a parochial school. One of my husband’s grandmothers is Jewish, so I make sure to read to our kids about Jewish traditions because it is part of their heritage. That said, I would not light a menorah at home or host a Seder, because our own nuclear family is not Jewish.If we were invited to a Seder, or Eid celebration, or Diwali, or anything, I would gladly attend. I think it’s so important to raise my children with an understanding of, and respect for, others’ spiritual practices. But a huge part of that means I can’t co-opt their traditions for my own curiosity (for lack of a better word). When my son asked me about Buddha, we got as much out of the library as we could about him. If we had known any Buddhists (same non-diverse area as @flea), I probably would’ve asked them if he could talk to them about their religion.
    I guess this is just a long way of agreeing with just about everyone else: latkes, yes. Menorahs, no.

  34. I pointed to this post in a recent post of my own which is about Jews and Christmas (http://velveteenrabbi.blogs.com/blog/2010/12/the-forest-beyond-the-trees.html), so if you get some new commentors chiming in who say they came from Velveteen Rabbi, that’s why.For my own part, I think there’s something wonderful about teaching our children to appreciate religious traditions which are not our own! But I would rather try to connect with friends to whom those traditions legitimately belong than try to co-opt the traditions into my own practice.

  35. @Stacy at 10:47 AM We wondered what to tell our kids when they were growing up, too.My kids knew they were Jewish. DH grew up very Jewish, his father was a kosher butcher!
    I grew up one of two Jewish families in the area, so I knew what it felt like to be in the minority.
    DH and I both became spiritual by choice.
    When kids came along we lived in a pretty non-Jewish area.
    When the kids were about 5, I wanted to find a way to talk to them about the heritage they came from and our current belief systems. This is how we did it.
    We told them, that we believe, that all people are all connected by their heart beat, because a source more powerful than us does that.
    We told them, that we believe, since we can’t make the breath we breathe go in and out, we believe in a source more powerful than us. We told them we call that source GOD.
    We told them, you know it isn’t right to judge people by the color of their skin, and that also means we shouldn’t decide that one person is right or wrong based on their religious beliefs either.
    People can believe what they want, but *we believe* that we are all connected regardless of individual beliefs.
    Stacy, I don’t know if that helps at all, but it’s what we did.
    That explanation felt more age appropriate for my children and led to great philosophical discussions as the years went on.
    I think, unless you’re willing to do *all* the research about why certain religions do certain things, that, as everyone has mentioned, it’s better to visit a family or an event in order to expose a child to different religious points of view. You know kids, you answer one question and they have a million more. I think it’s best if those who know why things are done, the way they are done, are ones who answer the questions. But, that just me.

  36. We’re Unitarian Universalists and one of the central tenets is that there is much to be learned from all of the world’s religions- and actually they have many truths in common.Our UU congregation lights menorah candles, Advent candles and our own chalice candle all on the same table. We host a seder and first night of Hanukkah dinner.
    I asked for a menorah for Christmas last year and made latkes for the first night of Hanukkah. We ate off Santa placemats and played dreidel games in front of the Christmas tree. Are my children (6 & 9) confused? I don’t think so.
    I buy books about other faiths and their holidays, and we talk about the beliefs in them regularly. I hope to teach my children about the many spiritual paths they can take through life without making them think that one is better than another. I hope they will choose their own path as they get older. For now, I explain what our family believes and how it is similar to and different from Grandma’s beliefs without judgment.
    It sounds like a good number of people are interested in learning more about the UU faith. Here is a link to a FAQ on the central association website. http://www.uua.org/visitors/index.shtml

  37. I grew up in an interfaith family, and even though my husband is Jewish, he also grew up always having a Christmas tree. So we have a Christmas tree. We celebrate pretty much like @liz above–some small presents for Chanukah, playing dreidel, lighting the candles & saying the blessings, but Christmas is our big winter holiday. This year we’re going to do a seder for Passover and just gloss over Easter–both our moms insist on sending things for Easter for the little guy. I’m sure if I made a big deal about it they’d stop, but honestly it’s not important enough to either of us that we’d want to insult our moms.We’re not part of a congregation now, but we’ll likely join up in a few years, maybe when the little guy enters kindergarten. Both my husband & I want him to receive a Jewish education, although more for cultural reasons than for religious reasons.

  38. We’re inventing our own holiday “Grismah”…a little “grinch”, a little “christmas”, a little “hanukkah”. We start with an advent calendar on the 1st. And we slowly open presents, one every few days once they start arriving. Never more than one gift a day. This means that gifts usually last until mid-January. One thing from Santa. One thing from us. The rest is random stuff that comes our way from grandparents and friends. The thing I like about Grismah is that you can still sing all the songs and just sub in Grismah for Christmas. You can start singing “it’s beginning to look a lot like Grismah…” at the start of the month and wish every a “Merry Grismah and a happy new year” without people even noticing. My 4.5 year old says it now and people just think he’s mispronouncing. Feel free to join the Grismah Train 😉

  39. @Cloud “You can teach the history and the stories without teaching the faith, if that is what feels right to you.”I personally don’t feel like I know enough about any religion other than Catholicism to teach my child the history & stories of any other faith. I suppose I could study up and then pass it on. OR I could just go with her to a UU church where it’s part of their regular “curriculum.”
    Honestly, I’m not interested enough to study up on religion. 🙂
    Of course, my child is too young to ask questions about God (or the lack thereof) yet, so this is just my plan for when she gets older.

  40. Regardless of your religious beliefs, celebrating Xmas and Hanukkah together is pretty disrespectful to both. At least from a Jewish perspective, Hanukkah is celebrating the Jewish people’s triumph over those that would have us assimilate–that is, become just like the non-Jews. So celebrating Xmas is doing just that–adopting the wider culture and assimilating. It’s completely in contravention to the message of Hanukkah.That being said, I sympathize with interfaith families–both my husband and I have non-Jewish mothers and Jewish fathers, but have chosen (and had the appropriate conversions) to be Jewish and raise our daughter to be Jewish. So we attend Xmas events on both sides, but it’s clear to our daughter that’s something that other family members do, and we are still Jewish and only celebrate Hannukah ourselves. As other posters said, it’s fine to expose your children to different traditions, but don’t completely dilute traditions by divorcing them from any religious meaning and mixing them all together. And for Xians that celebrate Jewish traditions, I guess it’s nice that you’re interested in our traditions, but keep in mind that your religion rejected (and persecuted Jewish people for celebrating) those traditions for thousands of years, so I do find it a little off-putting.

  41. I’d like to underscore a point that someone made early on above about how members of “minority’ religious communities are necessarily more concerned about assimilation – so things like cheerfully “adding” others’ traditions might not mean the same to someone in that position. In a perhaps-unwieldy analogy the the whiteness/race discussion of a couple months ago, there’s sort of an unmarked point of departure that is typically the majority/privileged position, whether it’s being white or being Christian (or possibly Judeo-Christian, in some places).I was raised Protestant and am connected in powerfully emotional and still-not-figured-out-religious ways to the tradition I grew up in. This means that I get weepy at certain high-church rituals, and wistfully remember how earnestly I used to believe. And wonder if/whether I’ll recover that, or if I even want to, in the future.
    But my husband was raised Hindu, by a pretty devout mother and a father who let the religious stuff be taken care of by the women, thus ensuring that tradition/culture/religion questions could be safely foisted off onto someone else while his children still remained recognizably Hindu *and* American.
    As we try to raise our little boy now, the questions are coming fast and thick: how much Christmas? My husband is quite skeptical of claims that trees/lights/stockings/etc are “secular” – to him, there’s an undeniable Christian-ness to it, and to claim otherwise is to ignore that history. I think part of what he is troubled by is that his son won’t necessarily grow up with that sense of alienation from mass-American culture that he felt growing up, that so bonded him to his cousins and fellow non-Christians (and particularly non-Abrahambic folks, since there’s so much erstwhile ecumenical “interfaith” stuff that stops at the non-Abrahamic lines). That his son will cheerfully and unselfconsciously adopt all the happy go lucky Christia-I mean, Christmas – stuff (courtesy of me and the general world around us), and a particular bond of disaffected, slight alienation will be lost in the next generation.
    And I can understand that that’s a lonely feeling.
    On the other hand, I love love love Christmas. And it’s a way I feel connected to generations of MY family. And so, what to do?
    These aren’t on equal footing. I realize that. It’s a case where I recognize the structural inequalities – between being able to “reject” Christmas and keep the “secular” trimmings, because of a sure-footed grasp of American mass culture, and not being ready to take easy part in that – but I also *feel* the individual, emotional bonds. So I want my child to feel the joy I felt this season, and even perhaps to do so in a church. And I feel empathy and understanding for my husband who looks on that as a lonely, excluding thing.
    Anyway… I didn’t mean to go on and on, but this is a subject near to my heart (obviously!). And I think that for many of us, maybe, it’s even more complicated than “adopting” particular rituals in or out of their usual contexts. Those contexts themselves carry histories, I guess is what I’m inarticulately trying to say.
    Sorry so long! I usually just lurk, but this time the spirit moved me.. (:

  42. A few years ago I worked with quite a few Indian and Pakistani. When one of them mentioned decorating and Santa Claus, I remarked that I thought they wouldn’t celebrate Christmas because of the difference in religion. The answer I received was, “why not, it’s American, there’s nothing religious about it”. While I don’t fault them for their response, I find it a sad commentary on what our holiday celebrations have come to.

  43. We are Catholic. We go to church every Sunday, kids are in CCD, the whole nine. But we always have one night of Hannukah with Jewish friends with dreidels, latkes, gelt, and if not Kosher, kosher-style food. (no mixing milk and meat, etc)Conversely, there are two Jewish families we always invite to help us decorate our Christmas tree. The parents don’t want to have the tree in their house, which I totally understand, but they see the attraction and want their kids to enjoy the fun. The kids have made ornaments for our tree, and they are some of our favorites, year after year.
    Very often, these are the same night. I love it. Everyone gets to experience something new-to-them but beloved of many generations in the other family.
    Finally, I remember friends of my parents who were Jewish (she, in fact, had barely escaped the Holocaust). When someone who didn’t know her well wished her a Merry Christmas, she replied “You too, darling!” I was about 11 and remember being aghast and asking her, “Aren’t you offended that someone wished you a Merry Christmas?” And she smiled at me and said, “Christmas is international, darling. It’s a day of love and happiness, and who doesn’t want that?” I miss her dearly and think of her every December.

  44. My nextdoor neighboors are originally from India, though the kids (teenagers) were all born here. They have a decorated tree and icicle lights on their house. It’s fun for the kids, but make no mistake that they are Hindu.I don’t happen to believe in any of it, but the US is primarily a Judeo-Christian society, so I celebrate secular US Christmas and Easter (and Good Friday and Maundy Thursday and Pentecost and Halloween and St Valentine’s Day, etc).
    Heck, I even baptized my kids at the urging of their grandparents. It didn’t bother me too much since (to me) it doesn’t mean anything. It’s just something you do to keep the grandparents happy (similar to accepting loud battery operated toys that get lost when they find their way into my home).
    Since I (and others) can be swept into the Christian-type holidays, I can imagine that a member of a religious minority might want to carve out their own little niche and stake claim to it to prevent it from being diluted by the dominant culture. You have to hold onto your own beliefs tightly to keep from being swept along.

  45. Interesting to read all the comments. I see a lot of “territorialism” – this is my religion- don’t touch it. My husband and I were both raised Christian, that is, we went to church every week and went through all the motions. But now that we are mature, we’re just not into it and no longer consider ourselves Christian. With that, I think it’s easier for me to treat other religions and traditions as cultural experiences rather than religious or spiritual. I’d like my children to experience different traditions so that they can understand there are other points of view. I have no problem with having some of those experiences in our home- whether Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or Chinese New Year. Having some experience is better having none. Not an intent of disrespect. Shouldn’t the other religious practitioners be glad we are trying to understand their religion??

  46. Here’s one out of left field: I’ve been non-denominationally pagan for several years, and am just now seriously studying in a witchcraft tradition. I’ll be taking my son and husband to our first Yule celebration this weekend, and then a few days later celebrating Yule in a more religiously intense ritual. I struggled a bit with the decision, but finally came to the conclusion that I wanted to share the appropriate parts of my life with my son — and that means the fun Yule. Also, I want him to grow up thinking my religion is not completely weird.I was raised in a vaguely Christian but very nonreligious household. We celebrated Christmas, and there was some meaning to it, but it was vague and not really connected to the birth of Christ. As for having a Christmas tree, I like to think that’s going to become a more and more obviously pagan thing for my family: that commercialism will become Saturnalia, that lights will become the Sun returning, that the tree will become a tree with particular meaning. But we’ll still celebrate Christmas; it’s what we’ve always done.
    (And go ahead, keep putting up those trees and lights, Christians! Make merry and give presents, too. But consider thinking of the pagan values you are celebrating, and what the VALUE in the values might have been, before they got twisted because they were out of the complete context pagan religious traditions gave them. Maybe commercialism is a cautionary tale? I don’t know, I have the sense that drawing a menorah might be okay, but having one without having the religious context might pervert it.)
    @ Stacy, Jessica, et al., the Quakers are also wonderfully open, depending on what brand of Quakerism they practice. While they have their testimonies and beliefs, they don’t have a lot of trapping to get hung up on during worship, and their core belief is that there is “that of God” in everyone. They’re worth checking out.

  47. Wow, you guys are awesome. Here’s our little story that we’ll have to untangle once BabyT gets a bit older.I was raised in a Hindu house that also did secular Christmas (tree, stockings, carols) for as long as I can remember. We event went to the neighborhood Catholic church for Christmas Eve services because my dad (Hindu, born and raised in India) LOVES Christmas music like nobody’s business. I went to Catholic school (but paid the non-believer tuition rate.)
    Hubby comes from a nonreligious family but his grandparents were Christian and went to church, etc. He grew up with the usual non-religious American Christmas celebration stuff.
    So we both want to pass on the secular Christmas stuff to BabyT, because it’s fun, and celebratory and about giving, etc.
    Neither of us has any kind of relationship with God – I’d say we’re mostly atheist, or very strongly agnostic, anyway.
    I’m pretty conflicted about the Hindu side. I wasn’t really into it growing up (too busy trying to assimilate in my mostly white town), and felt “forced” into a lot of it by my family, so I’m still sort of annoyed by that. I’m happy to let it go but it will likely cause friction with extended family over time.
    @berivan – I also felt alienated growing up and I’m really glad my babe won’t. Of course, she’s also growing up in a much more cosmopolitan area.
    So I think we’re going to go the same route a lot of people have mentioned – have BabyT attend UU Sunday School when the time comes. I’ve attended a service at the church and it was lovely. But like someone else said “life gets in the way”.
    But I do want my babe to grow up respecting all traditions, but also understanding what we do (and do not) believe as a family. I do not want her to get religious instruction from her friends at school.

  48. @Jessica- by all means, go to the UU church if that feels right to you! I wasn’t trying to argue that anyone shouldn’t. I would just feel wrong to me, since I truly don’t believe.FWIW, my parents mostly just helped me find the answers when I had questions, unless I happened to ask something they knew. But really, I don’t remember thinking about it much until college. In college, I ended up taking a class called “Near Eastern Civilizations” to satisfy a distribution requirement, and really enjoyed it. Thanks to that class, I’ve probably read more of the bible (including the apocrypha!) than a lot of my Catholic cousins. I also read quite a bit of the Koran and the Dead Sea Scrolls, and some Zoroastrian texts. And I found the history around the writing of the bible fascinating.
    I have forgotten a lot of the details now, so when my kids start asking questions, we’ll definitely have to go the “let’s find out together” route.

  49. @Broomcloset – I’m so glad I’m not the only “minority religious” here! :PI was raised Christian, hubby was not raised religiously at all. He’s an agnostic, now, and I’m a pagan. I have two sons, 6 and 4, and we have a Christmas tree and Santa visits. We’re not trying to push too hard with our beliefs which revolve strongly around the natural seasons. I know some history of many religions – enough that I can answer some questions my kids will have and how to find further answers. We’re planning on introducing them to our beliefs as they’re able to understand. At their age now, they understand Christmas and Santa and we’ll be introducing them to Yule this year. I think if you do too much, all they understand is the trappings, and not the meaning behind them. I don’t expect my kids to adopt my beliefs; rather I hope they will respect them and make their own choices down the road.
    I do think it hypocritical to claim it disrespectful to “try out” another religion’s practices. If you do it with respect and do the best you can to learn about it, what’s wrong with that? Have you looked at where your own practices come from? Just because you’re not in Mexico, nor are Mexican doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy tacos. (please don’t be insulted by that – food was the easiest comparison I could come up with on the fly)

  50. @ Kelly and others who have responded to the issue of “trying out” the faiths of others, here’s my .02 on this issue: There’s nothing wrong with witnessing or participating in such rituals of another’s religion as you are invited to attend as a non-believer. But the thing about devout people of any faith – their rituals mean something to them, they are embedded in deep and complicated meanings that sometimes require some level of spiritual education or training to understand. So it’s easy for a nonbeliever to stumble into someone else’s traditions and co-opt them in a way that makes a believer uncomfortable or even angry. My belief is this: if you ask a devout Jewish person if they feel uncomfortable if you light menorah candles in your own home, and they say yes that troubles me because you are taking our ritual and removing it from its spiritual context, you can certainly go ahead and do it, but it would be more respectful not to. Sometimes it’s hard for nonbelievers to understand why people of a certain faith get worked up about some specific thing, but it’s more respectful to accept the feelings of others in these situations. So, for me, I’m Catholic and that’s important to me. Catholics welcome everyone at Mass, but only Catholics who have been to First Communion (and members of the Eastern Orthodox Church) are permitted to receive communion, because communion has a specific theological and sacramental meaning to Catholics that it does not have to other Christians. It’s not meant to be exclusionary. Therefore, sometimes Protestants or nonbelievers take Communion, sometimes out of ignorance & sometimes out of a deliberate desire to “flout” the rules. (A friend of mine has a story about a SIL who went up for Communion, a non-Catholic, got flustered, and put the Host in her purse! This is deeply horrifying to Catholics, because the Host contains the Real Presence of Jesus, is therefore not a piece of bread that can be tossed in the bin.) This is very upsetting to Catholics, because to us receiving communion is a sacred experience with a sacred significance that should only be shared with people who understand it in the same way. It doesn’t matter how respectful you might feel going up for Communion, the genuinely respectful thing to do is stand back – or go up with your arms folded, not receive the Host and receive a blessing from the priest, if you want to participate in some fashion.I really love all the interfaith holiday season sharing – ie, going to Hanukah parties and inviting Jewish and other non-Christian friends to tree-trimming. I have happy memories as a child going to a friend’s Hanukah party and playing the dreidl game.

  51. I’ve really enjoyed reading everyone’s responses, and several people expressed my views more clearly than I’ll be able to.My husband is a Jew-by-choice, and our family is much more Jewishly observant than my parents are. His family is religiously mixed; Catholic grandmother, mother converted to a Protestant denomination when he was young, actively religious father. On good days, I’m glad that our kids have the chance to “celebrate their holiday with them.” I explain to our 4 year old that “in some houses, Santa brings the presents; in our house, the parents and grandparents bring the presents.” That said, I still feel awkward re-stressing that point when it comes up with M’s family, and I’ve gotten really tired of reporting annually that Hanukkah is a really little, minor holiday and that our “holiday season” happened last fall. I can’t wait for the cousins to be past the Santa stage so that we can stop having to talk about him, and having to remind my 8 year old not to blow it for the little ones.
    I’m glad that my kids are exposed to many religious and cultural traditions at their schools, and we are delighted to be included in other families’ celebrations. But it’s important to me that my kids know who they are, and they are Jewish. Our home celebrations are only for Jewish and for secular holidays (Thanksgiving, Halloween, and, yes, Valentine’s Day). I would find it disrespectful to celebrate others’ religious holidays in our home, and it would probably bother me to have others celebrate our holidays without us. And I’m sure that this is because of my fear of assimilation!

  52. Hmmm.So what about Christians celebrating Passover as part of a Holy Week celebration? I know a lot of churches that do this, because Jesus celebrated Passover with his disciples as part of the Holy Week story, and if you worship a Jewish God, it makes sense to celebrate what he celebrated.
    Is this the same as lighting a menorah in terms of assimilating? I’d argue not.

  53. @Moxie: I think @berivan’s remarks about privilege still apply, particularly given that Easter was for a long time a favourite occasion for pogroms and anti-semitic violence. I can see that it’s well-meant, and even that it might be a gesture of reconciliation in that context, but it strikes me as pretty insensitive given the amount of water that’s gone under that bridge, unless the church in question is using it as an opportunity for some sort of interfaith cooperation with an actual Jewish community.

  54. @in the broomcloset: I’m so glad that someone brought up Saturnalia! (I’m Christian myself but non-denominational. I’ve never been able to blindly follow without researching the meaning.) SO, yes! 99% of Christmas traditions- even December 25th as a THE date- are actually based on pagan Winter Festivals and the Nativity of the Son God. Mithraism and Saturnalia, mostly. But I still love my tree, gifts, lights, etc. :)I wonder if anyone’s worried that you guys are offended? Probably not.
    Anyways, I know us Christians are the bast*rd, heretic sons of Judaism and all… but the God of Abraham, and Issac and Jacob is MY God too. I know we parted ways at the Messiah issue but we’re both trusting the SAME God to faithfully keep the SAME Promise of the Messiah. Shouldn’t that mean something?
    Judaism is my ancestry. And I’ll never find anything offensive about teaching my children about miracles that our God performed for His people- especially when those people are my people too.
    I know I sound defensive. But there are a lot of posts here all but calling Chritians a-holes for wanting to teach our children about Hannukah. And bringing up the past crimes of the Christian church to put on us, now? Seriously? That’s akin to blaming us for slavery because we live in the US.
    So much for peace and love and God’s grace toward mankind this holiday season. sheesh.

  55. @chanliteheart: Full disclosure – I am not Jewish; my husband is. And I have no idea what the actual reaction to these issues is; I imagine it’s a pretty mixed bag, it’s not like there’s one monolithic community involved – this is strictly my own reaction.But I wanted to reinforce my final point about involving the people who actually do practice the religion in question. If you say to a Jewish friend, “hey, we’d really like to teach our kids about Hanukkah traditions and we were thinking about lighting a menorah,” and they say “what a great idea!” then that’s one thing…and same with asking about, say, a rabbi’s input in an Easter/Passover celebration. But if they say “uh, not really comfortable with that, and here’s why,” then they should really get the final word on the subject, I think, even if the reasons are ancient history. It seems only polite to ask.

  56. “But there are a lot of posts here all but calling Chritians a-holes for wanting to teach our children about Hannukah.”Wow.

  57. There’s nothing wrong with teaching your (non-Jewish) children about Hanukkah–I doubt anyone was saying that. But somewhat offensive to co-opt those traditions for your own and celebrate specific rituals when you don’t believe the underlying theology? I think it is.To answer Moxie’s question, Passover is not specifically about assimilation, but it is celebrating the Jewish people’s history and their special covenant with G-d. Xianity’s take on that covenant, as far as I can tell, is that Jesus created a new covenant, so Xians aren’t part of that original covenant and aren’t subject to traditional Jewish law.
    So if you/your religion rejects the Jewish people’s special covenant with G-d, then why celebrate a holiday that commemorates it? Does it make sense why that’s somewhat offensive? I don’t have a problem with inviting non-Jews to my seder (in fact, we do, every year). But they are observing us celebrate our tradition and beliefs, not co-opting it for themselves and divorcing it from its religious meaning. In the same way that many Xians don’t appreciate that Xmas has become commercialized and lost its meaning, I don’t appreciate Jewish holidays being celebrated by people that don’t know what they mean and don’t hold the underlying beliefs.
    But it’s not keeping me up at night. And if celebrating a pseudo-Passover seder leads a Xian to do some research and actually learn more about the holiday, then I guess that’s a win–one less person I have to explain to why my family can’t eat out (or at their house) during the holiday (which lasts 8 days, by the way).

  58. @Alison, thanks for the additional input.My point is that I’m not talking about putting a statue of Ganesh on the mantle with a wreath around it. Which, btw, does sound *quite* offensive.
    My God is the God of Abraham and Issac and Jacob. He did (and still does) great things for His people. We’re talking about Hannukah, and specifically what happened at the Temple. I believe what God did.
    I shouldn’t need permission from a leader of another religion to teach my children about His works. (And if the religions seeking/giving permission in that scenario were flipped, no one would have a problem seeing how offensive *that* suggestion is.)
    Regarding Passover: I can’t/don’t speak for Christianity or what the general take on Passover is. Many of my beliefs & practices aren’t part of any religion, which is why I don’t belong to one.
    I personally don’t reject any Covenant God made with His people! He protected His people and delivered them. He still does. The coming Messiah was to be the Passover Lamb, the fulfillment (not nixing) of Mosiac Law.
    I can’t tell you if some denomination of Christianty “rejects” the Covenant. But I suppose if they did, why *would* they have interest in the Feast?
    Again, most of this discussion was centered on Hannukah/Christmas. Two holidays that celebrate the same God’s deliverance. And the tone (as another poster pointed out) was very “My God, not yours.” Which I found unsettling.
    I would never celebrate the traditions of a religion whose God is not mine in my home. Respectfully participate in another family’s if invited? Sure. Other people are free to feel differently about that. But I won’t call them disrespectful and offensive. That’s not my call.

  59. Thank you Moxie for hosting this discussion. It is so very intersting!I am a professor of religious studies and Jewish so it is compelling for a number of reasons…
    As a scholar of religions I encourage, and often require, my college students to visit the worship services of other religions. I don’t on the other hand, suggest that they try to recreate the rituals of others at home…There is a lot lost when rituals are taken out of context. And as several above, both Jews and non-Jews, it sometimes feels very uncomfortable to know that others are enacting your rituals devoid of the meaning that makes them an intrinsic part of your worldview.
    But still, I am less troubled by people wanting to light Chanukah candles with their children at home to check it out…I think that what children are interested in is not where this conversation ended up (in other words fulfillment of the Mosaic law [in and of itself a Christian idea and not a Jewish one because in Judaism, of course, the law is in no need of a “fulfillment, etc] and assimilation).
    What your sons are probably interested in is what it is like to celebrate Chanukah as opposed to Christmas. They want to know what other kids are doing at home when they don’t observe the same traditions they do. It is much more innocent than perhaps we are making it out here…
    Yes, in theory, a non-Jew “celebrating” Chanukah is a bit un-nerving to me (Church Passover seders even more so!) but if your sons want to get a visual of or get a more tangible handle on what happens with the menorah, then go for it. You can light the candles, perhaps even for 8 nights, and explain how certain prayers are said, etc…and then they will know.
    You could also wrangle an invitation to a Jewish household next year, attend a public menorah lighting or rent a video for kids about Chanukah.

  60. Hi again, everyone! I wanted to say thanks for the lively discussion and thoughts-to-ponder. I am sorry that the tone (ever hard to decipher in this medium, eh?!) of discussion made some folks feel pushed-back-on. Given the caliber of commentary we’ve all come to expect here at AskMoxie, I feel like it probably wasn’t meant to incite or hurt- just people frankly saying how particular courses of action might make them feel.And perhaps again akin to the race-privilege discussion, it IS hard to know what to do with the conflicted reactions one experiences. I know for myself, at least, as WASPy well-intentioned liberal extraordinaire, that I often experience a profound sense of “but wait! I was trying to learn! I meant no disrespect!” And that feeling is very real, as are the reactions of the non-majority person, who might be thinking, “But I’m tired of ‘teaching’ you (and you, and you, and..)! And I am worried that I will lose the tiny bit of ground that we have, we are so tiny compared to you!”
    It’s hard for majority folks to understand that last bit sometimes, I think… It’s not just “territorialism” (insofar as “territorialism” is a negative word, right, something demarcating an illegitimate/petty/ ungracious defense of a space). It is fear of being washed away, I think. Does that make sense?
    I am grateful for places like this to hash out the ins and outs of topics like these – it’s good to encounter different reactions, and I feel that people here tend to try to explain where their reactions come from. (Including the precise outlining of “bio-data” – the background we come from, the ages of our kids, the kinds of places we live.. all so important, and ALWAYS missing from parenting books!)
    I’d like to bring it back to the kids for a second, because I find this sense of alienation-as-productive of (mostly pleasurable) identity interesting. This is how my husband ultimately describes growing up Hindu in a typical US rust-belt city. But I was also really struck by @ARC (I think?)’s posting, that those feelings of alienation growing up were/are felt mostly as really hard, and NOT something she wants her child to experience. I wondered if anyone else had thoughts of the… I dunno what to call it, the productivity of *not* being “in the mainstream” as a formative part of a child’s life. Obviously this would be (interestingly) differently inflected if the lines of difference we’re talking about race, or class, or religion, or political orientation, or funky-weird-family-style, etc.
    Anyway – just wanted to say thanks for all the hard and heartfelt work that went into this discussion. I really found it thought provoking.

  61. @berivan – I could talk about this all day, seriously. If I had a lot of cousins/friends nearby who were also Indian-American, I might have felt less pressure to assimilate. But for me, it was definitely NOT a positive experience so in some way that made me “lose” my Indian culture.But as a result, it’s really important for me to raise BabyT with a healthy respect for people who do things differently, and I want her to be open to trying and learning new things about other cultures. It’s way less important to me that she identify with Indian culture specifically.
    I’m also trying to do the hard work to leave my own baggage about it behind, though.
    Anyway, if you want to chat more, feel free to email me. I’m anandiraman, and my email account is with Gmail. (Trying to avoid the spambots.)

  62. Moxie, I am jumping in (as an observant but socially liberal Jew) to add my voice to the people who suggest that the best way to proceed with your original question is to take your kids to a menorah lighting rather than trying to replicate it – both because I think it will be richer, more fun, and more meaningful for everybody and because I think otherwise you run the risk of implying (unconsciously) that other religions are there for the appropriating, even though I’m sure that is not the message you’re trying to send. I am 100% with Alison (who sounds like my RL friend Alison) on this.Territorial or not, I’m also very uncomfortable with the Christian trend of adopting Jewish practices like mezuzot and kashrut and seder, though I generally try to shut up about it. I’m moderately uncomfortable with secular mashups, but for different and far milder reasons.

  63. If I could ignore all of the religion-based holidays I would.I don’t like Christmas trees, or stockings, and I am very anti-Santa because I think he is just a gimmic used by advertisers to coax people into spending excessive amounts of money. Unfortunately, my son – who just finished pre-school – is Santa and Christmas crazy. I explain to him that “we don’t do Santa” but he just doesn’t listen, and my husband insists we put up a tree. I am trying to ‘get over it’ (as everybody keeps telling me I should) but to be honest, I feel very strongly about these things and I think its a bit like telling a Muslim to ‘get over it’ and celebrate Christmas when they don’t want to.
    My family is Catholic, and for the most part they celebrate a Catholic Christmas. But I don’t really consider myself a Catholic anymore, and I don’t associate my beliefs with any one faith. My kids go to public school and I don’t make a huge effort to teach them Catholicism. Having said that, they are baptised and I am more than hapy for my Mum or brothers and sisters to teach my kids the faith.
    Lately I have been pondering the notion that ‘God’ is all gods – he/she/it appears as needs be to those who wish it. Be that as the Christian-Jewish God, the Muslim God, or the Greek Olympians and Egyptian gods.
    Don’t get me wrong, I love having a special day of the year to celebrate my family and all the good things we have, and I love giving my kids presents and giving my family presents; but do we have to call it Christmas? After all, it has nothing to do with Christ, nor with going to Mass.
    It’s days like these that I feel a little envious of the American tradition of Thanksgiving. We don’t have anything like that in Australia and I think we are poorer for it.

  64. I am the mother of 3 fabulous Muslim children. I was raised in a Lutheran home, we attended church intermittantly, but were always there for the holidays. During College, I attended a Presbyterian Church.I am a Christian Mother of Muslim Children who celebrate Christmas and Easter.
    We celebrate Christmas because it is the birth of the Prophet Jesus, and because my family are all Christian. We celebrate the spirit of giving, of family time and of the wonder and magic that happens when you suspend disbelief and carry out the fantasy of Santa. We have a tree, we decorate our house, we have stockings and make cookies and gingerbread houses and we visit our family near and far.
    I have friends who don’t think it’s acceptable for my children to participate in Christmas, Easter, Halloween or even Thanksgiving. They say that we are sending them mixed messages. I say that I am sharing with my children part of who I am and my culture. My husband (who is the Muslim parent) is fully supportive, and enjoys celebrating these holidays with me.
    I don’t think you have to be mutually exclusive to one religion when it comes to celebrating holidays. Especially in America where your neighbor may have a different religion than yours, it teaches tolerance and acceptance.

  65. Coming in late and it probably has been suggested, but I’ll risk repeating it.I suggest finding opportunities for your kids to witness/participate/experience other traditions outside of your home but not re-creating those experiences in your own home. So make a Jewish friend (or several! *grin*) and get yourself invited to holidays and Shabbat. Make friends of other faiths and do the same, if it’s considered reasonable for that faith.
    You the parent might consider checking out the books “How to Be a Perfect Stranger” just to have some background information on a large variety of faith traditions.
    FWIW, our family is a hodge-podge. My husband and I are Jewish, but I’m not Jewish by birth. My kids “help” my parents celebrate Christmas, but this year the grandparents were a bit heavy-handed on the Santa thing. My DH’s family isn’t all one denomination within Judaism, and I have an awesome non-Jewish brother-in-law. We’re a surprisingly respectful bunch, but none of us try to create religious experiences outside of our own faiths. I think we all figure it will confuse the kids (and maybe us too!)

  66. you were off this past week and that there would be less content. Not by much! We still had our QOTD, some intrseeting news and reviews. Very nice to get our daily PDA-247 fix. Cheers!

  67. Let’s just bank on the idea that the next kiddo will be a Thomas, k? I doubt Tom will go for Thomas Grace anyway. It’s been a long year, and knonwig you have been right there along side me has meant so much. xoxox

  68. 02 Mar 17, 2011 12:50 so lovley cards 😉 and i love your blog and phohtgrapoy so much your writing gives me always a smile in these days more important to enjoy the little things, right thanks for being here and your wonderful inspirations all the best and congratulations cheers and hugs from germany i

  69. What a nice way to feel and how very thoughtful of you to share it. I know it must have made Kip very happy to know how much he is loved and apecpriated. I hope he had a great Fathers Day. He deserved it.

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