It's a tricky thing, because explaining the differences between the religions is difficult and not especially productive. How does one explain the concept of Jesus, and what he means to those of the Christian faith, to a Jewish child? I suppose, if it's framed like a story, they could kind of understand it; but I really don't want to equate Jesus Christ with Batman, even if that would be the coolest Batman story ever. "He died for your sins, and now he's coming back... to save Gotham City from Bane!" I would definitely go see that movie.
So, we're answering the questions with a basic framework of the actual system. Daddy is not Jewish, he's Christian, and he celebrates Christmas. Mum and the boys are Jewish, and they celebrate Channukah. We're fortunate in that we have a few other mixed-faith families in our temple and preschool, so it's not THAT strange of a thing. They know that Daddy likes to put up Christmas lights in the front of the house because they look pretty, and the two older boys helped me untangle lights and test them out. The Boy helped me spread them on some of the bushes, which was pretty cool.
They understand that some people believe that Santa brings presents on Christmas morning. That's all we've said about it. We're not saying that he does or doesn't, and we've told them that it's not something we talk about with kids who believe in Santa Claus. I do not want to see my kid spoil the whole Santa Claus thing for someone else, particularly when I, as a child, pounded some kid into submission for saying there was no Santa Claus. (No joke, and I was far too old to believe in Santa.)
We did the presents during Channukah, and it was basically a present (or two tiny ones) per night. For our kids, that's perfect: give them something with which to play, and let them play with it. Or not, as the case may be. They lit the Channukah menorah, and - with some guidance - they actually lit their own candles! Well, we lit the chamash (starter candle) and they used the chamash to light the other candles. The Boy had no problem with it; Little Bear needed a hand on his hand to make sure he didn't light anything else on fire.
We had a nice Christmas celebration at my father's house, including the boys decorating the Christmas tree there. We'll probably have a tree in the house next year; this year would have been too difficult, with The Baby in a stage of development that doesn't include self-control. We opened presents there, which was fun. (I'm still processing some things about that, which deserves its own post about commercialism conflicting with our desire to give our children fun things with which to play.)
I'm still trying to figure out which traditions I want to bring forward into the next generation. I know that I have a couple of small things for the boys for Christmas Day, and I'll hunt for something for The Wife this weekend. It's not as easy as "let's celebrate both," because that's WAY too much time spent opening presents. It's not as easy as "let's celebrate one and ignore the other," because that's not acceptable, either. What's the compromise? I'm not sure, and I'm certain that this conversation will be held every November and January as we plan and debrief the holiday season.
Here's the comforting thing: the boys are very sweet and very good-natured, and they have been doing a good job playing with their new presents and reading their new books. I do not think that there is an expectation of lots of presents, nor is there an expectation of big presents. They are still happy about the gift of some nice pajamas, as much as they are about a gift of a big Trio blocks playset.
What do you think?