My girls, ages 6 and 3, LOVE the Christmas season. They love everything about it – from pouring over advertisements for various toy sales to the holiday jingles they hear in the mall. They also love being driven around the neighborhood (and adjoining neighborhoods) to check out the Christmas lights that decorate so many homes. They love celebrating Chanukah too – lighting the candles, spinning the dreidels, eating latkes and donuts, and yes, unwrapping gifts. But more than any other non-Jewish/secular holiday, there’s something about Christmas that calls to them.
I live in a suburb of Washington, DC. For the second year in a row, I was able to take the girls to the White House for their open house Christmas decorations tour. I think it's fun and exciting -- certainly for them. They get to talk about being at the White House. (This year, they can also talk about seeing DC’s mayor, Vincent Gray.) And yes, they get to see ALL of the various Christmas trees in all of the rooms that we’re allowed to visit. And there are lots. And of course, we take pictures standing in front of each tree.
In full disclosure, our family is a bit mixed. We are a practicing Orthodox family. However, my father-in-law converted to Judaism decades ago and we still have a relationship with his family. So every year, on Christmas, my girls go visit their great-grandmother at her assisted living facility. It brings her great joy – and of course, they are excited to see the tree lights and tinsel – so it brings them great joy as well.
Now don’t get me wrong, we don’t celebrate – let alone acknowledge – the religious significance of Christmas. But, does sharing in some of the holiday spirit come too close to celebrating non-Jewish holidays? Does it send the wrong message to our children?