Home >> Celebrations,Culture,Our Voices,Voices >> Chrismukkah – Integrating Interfaith Celebrations
Chrismukkah – Integrating Interfaith Celebrations
Jessica Colman Cheng

Jessica Colman Cheng

Director of Social Media at the Parent Voice, Magazine
Jewish American with touch of Asian flare, Jessica is raising her half-Chinese daughter in Chicago, Illinois. Read More under "Meet the Team".
Jessica Colman Cheng

When Seth Cohen, the half-Jewish, half-Protestant character on the TV show ‘The OC’ proclaimed his invention of the super-holiday ‘Chrismukkah’ in December of 2003, I was ready to join him and celebrate too.  

Seniors in college at the time, my girlfriends and I camped out in front of the TV on Thursday nights to see what clever drama the cute, nerdy guy with the Jew-fro would get into. I distinctly remember having an ‘Aha’ moment during that particular episode.  Having been raised 100% Jewish, I had felt bad for kids who came from interfaith families when the winter holidays came around.  I figured they were always confused about how to celebrate the holidays. It hadn’t occurred to me that they could enjoy both Christmas and Hanukkah equally without any qualms.  Seth Cohen made me realize that interfaith kids were quite happy to embrace both Christmas and Hanukkah.



While the name ‘Chrismukkah’ doesn’t appear in any literature prior to 2003, many Jewish Americans had already embraced secular Christmas.  It was either through marrying into a Christian family or trying to assimilate into American culture that the celebration of both holidays became inevitable.  Christmas is everywhere in America – the music, the decorations, the movies, it is impossible to ignore. When Christmas music starts to play on the radio, I am more than happy to turn up the volume on Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas” and belt it out (in my car, obviously!)  I personally love the holiday season because people are very charitable during that time and generally happy to be celebrating with friends and family.

Christmas has become a worldwide phenomenon — markets, trees with lights, special music, presents, decorations — it would be so much easier for me to celebrate too, right?

But while I do enjoy seeing the sparkling lights and hearing the beautiful music, I have no connection to Jesus or his birthday.  The true meaning behind Christmas has certainly gotten lost along the way of pop culture and capitalism. In Japan, a Buddhist and Shinto country, young woman hope to have a boyfriend around Christmas time just so they can receive fancy presents.  When I lived there, this boggled my mind – it was so superficial to want presents like that when there was no need and no religious connotation involved.

While I do enjoy seeing the sparkling lights and hearing the beautiful music, I have no connection to Jesus or his birthday. Click To Tweet The true meaning behind Christmas has certainly gotten lost along the way of pop culture and capitalism. Click To Tweet

When my husband’s family moved to the USA from China, his parents promptly bought a Christmas tree because they assumed all Americans did that and that it just represented being American, not Christian.  

Since I married into the family, his mother (generously) asks me what I want for Christmas every year.  I gently keep reminding her that I celebrate Hanukkah only and so will our daughter.

Hanukkah is actually a very minor holiday compared to Christmas, the meaning behind our ‘Fesitival of Lights’ has to do with a battle being won and an oil lamp lasting 8 days instead of 1 (which is why we light the Menorah for 8 nights). Christmas has to do with the religion’s Savior being born – without which the religion would not exist.  

Related Posts

Despite these differences of relevance, Hanukkah has become more important for American Jews perhaps because they somehow feel their kids are ‘missing out’ by not getting Christmas presents.  Thus, Hanukkah is now an assimilation holiday too.  No one is complaining about this, of course, but it is not the same worldwide. It seems to be very much an American-phenomenon.  

Hanukkah has become more important for American Jews because they feel their kids are ‘missing out’ by not getting Christmas presents. Click To Tweet We have made sure to light the Menorah candles annually and hope our daughter will think fondly of those prayers and warm candle lights. Click To Tweet

In our house, we decided to make donations in each other’s names instead of gifts.  The holiday season is such a charitable time and we feel there is no need for presents (my husband and me).  Our daughter will receive small gifts each night of Hanukkah when she gets older.  As a two-year old now, she gets some small gifts from her grandparents and extended family.  We have made sure to light the Menorah candles annually and hope she will think fondly of those prayers and warm candle lights. For Christmas, we typically go out to eat Chinese food.  This has become a Jewish American tradition but in my family it works out so well to incorporate our Chinese side during the holidays too!



I asked many of my friends who celebrate both holidays what the gift-giving routine was growing up and most of them said they received small gifts for Hanukkah and one big gift on Christmas.  They didn’t necessarily get more presents by being interfaith, the presents were just spread out throughout the season.  Basically, interfaith children won the ‘gift-giving’ lottery there!  

The same goes for the next generation, if their families have remained interfaith, their children continue to receive Hanukkah and Christmas gifts from the respective grandparents.  The holidays have become a win-win: all the generations celebrate their respective holiday together while memories are created and traditions continue on.  The feedback I received is that most of these families used the Hanukkah colors of blue and white to decorate their Christmas trees and homes, and that the decorations themselves were geared more towards secular symbols than religious ones.  The blending of the seasons done to represent both holidays!

For Christmas, we typically go out to eat Chinese food to incorporate our Chinese side during the holidays. Click To Tweet

Coming from a Jewish household, it’s easy to see why I would have felt badly for my interfaith friends growing up.  Now looking back on it, I am so glad they were able to experience the blending and celebrating of two different cultures.  They didn’t grow up feeling confused at all. They were able to embrace the difference and create customs of their own.  Happy Holidays to all – may this season be a memorable and inspiring one for you and yours!   


the author

Jewish American with touch of Asian flare, Jessica is raising her half-Chinese daughter in Chicago, Illinois. Read More under “Meet the Team”.

Share your thoughts

Share your thoughts

Notify of
avatar
  • Contact

    Email (General):
    admin@theparentvoice.com

    Story Pitch:
    mypitch@theparentvoice.com

    Advertising & Collaborations:
    theteam@theparentvoice.com 

    Mailing Address:
    the Parent Voice,
    1750 Lundy Ave. #613176

    San Jose, CA 95161

    Phone Number:
    (802) 448-2TPV (878)
    (United States)

  • About the Parent Voice, Magazine

    the Parent Voice, (tPV,) is an online parenting magazine that celebrates multiracial, multiethnic, and multicultural families by showcasing our many different and unique experiences, providing resources, nurturing virtual support, and building a community of like-minded individuals who want to raise responsible and respectful children in a world that may not always be that same way for them.

    tPV, is passionately and lovingly created by mothers who are all volunteers who believe in the mission of the Magazine. We are grateful to our contributors, our consultants, and our readers for supporting our vision and values. Thank you. To read more about us, click here. To donate, click here


     

     

  • Subscribe to our Newsletter
    We respect your privacy.

Top