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Can a convert to Judaism join in his family's secular celebration of Christmas?


Rabbi Goldwasser

Rabbi Jeffrey Wolfson Goldwasser

Question: Can a convert to Judaism join in his family's secular celebration of Christmas?

"As somebody considering conversion, I'm wondering what your perspective is on the always hot button issue of non-Jewish holiday observance. Given the value that Judaism places on family, I wonder what you would think of a convert to Judaism joining his Christian parents in a secular celebration of Christmas. Christmas has always been a special time for our family, despite the fact that it's devoid of religious observance (they don't even go to church on Christmas). I would not celebrate it out of any religious significance, but more as a time to be with my family and exchange gifts."

Answer: You ask whether it would be appropriate for you to join your Christian parents in their secular observance of Christmas after you convert to Judaism, which you are now considering.

What kind of religion would Judaism be if it forbade you from being with your parents at a time that is special to them? Of course you should be with your parents at times of family gathering on such occasions. By the way, that also includes Christian baptisms, weddings, funerals and other life-cycle events in your family of origin. Being a Jew does not mean that you are barred from such events.

The difference is, when a Jew attends an event like a Christmas party with Christian members of his or her family, he or she goes as a Jew. You would be there, not to celebrate Christmas, but to be with your family on an occasion that is special for them.

This is an experience that you would share with many interfaith families with Jewish children. In such families, it is common for children to be raised with the understanding that, "We are going to grandma and grandpa's house for Christmas, even though we don't celebrate Christmas, because it is an important holiday for them."

I wish you the best in your journey toward discovering Judaism.

Best wishes,
Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser
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