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American Jews: Christmas versus Hanukkah

How Jewish Children of Interfaith Couples Celebrate the December Holidays


Dec 13 2006
In America today, interfaith marriages, interfaith families and Jewish children growing up in interfaith homes is a common reality.
  • Approximately 50 percent of American Jews today marry non-Jews.
  • Approximately 33 percent of all American Jewish families today are interfaith, a rise from 28 percent in 1990.
  • Approximately 33 percent of intermarried couples in America today are raising their children to be Jewish.
As the December holidays approach, how do American interfaith families who are raising their children as Jews balance the celebrations of Christmas and Hanukkah?

InterfaithFamily.com set out to answer this question in its annual December Holidays Survey.

The survey’s conclusions focus exclusively on those respondents who said they were in an interfaith relationship with one of the partners being Jewish and were raising their children as Jews.

Conclusions of InterfaithFamily.com’s December Holidays Survey
  1. The great majority of American interfaith couples raising their children as Jews plan on participating in celebrations of both Christmas and Hanukkah. 99 percent expect to participate in Hanukkah celebrations, and 89 percent plan to participate in Christmas celebrations.

  2. These interfaith families believe in and do a good job of distinguishing between the holidays. In other words, the vast majority is not interested in combining the holidays into one Chrismukkah celebration. Of those who had heard of Chrismukkah, 68 percent said they thought that Chrismukkah is a bad idea.

  3. These families tend to prioritize Hanukkah over Christmas by identifying Hanukkah as the family celebration and a religious holiday and by relating to Christmas in a secular manner.

  4. The vast majority of these families celebrate Hanukkah in their own homes by lighting the menorah (99 percent), telling the Hanukkah story (63 percent), giving gifts and eating Hanukkah foods.

  5. In contrast, these families are much less likely to practice Christmas activities at home. In their own homes, approximately half of the respondants (51 percent) plan on giving Christmas gifts, less than half (44 percent) plan to decorate a Christmas tree, and only 5 percent plan on telling the Christmas story. Only 18 percent of these families plan on attending religious services for Christmas.

  6. Many of these families plan to participate in Christmas celebrations and exchange Christmas gifts in the homes of friends and relatives. Many of them feel the need to participate in Christmas activities at the home of extended family out of respect for the traditions of the non-Jewish family.

  7. While the parents in interfaith families tend to feel ambivalence about celebrating both holidays, the majority of Jewish children of interfaith couples look forward to the celebration of both Christmas and Hanukkah.
In sum, one out of every three American Jewish families today is considered an "interfaith family." And one out of every three of these families has decided to raise their children as Jews. The great majority of these families celebrate Christmas - primarily in a secular way outside of their own home - out of respect for their non-Jewish relatives, and they feel certain that this celebration does not negatively affect their children's Jewish identities.
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