Christmas vs. Hanukkah, Round 1
Thanks to the PBS show Caillou, my daughter, who is almost 4, knows all about Christmas–about Santa, Christmas trees, presents, and caroling. Thanks to my wife and me and some quick counter programming on our part, Adira also knows all about Hanukkah, about the candles and presents and foods. She also knows that we don’t celebrate Christmas but her babysitter does, and that Santa is pretend, for everyone and not just us.
And so it begins. Thanks a lot, Caillou. I was entirely unprepared for a DVD from the library called “Winter Wonders” featuring an otherwise bland, bald kid (whose name is not Charlie Brown) to bring Christmas into our home. In October, no less. But that’s parenting. We don’t get to choose the timing.
I am not squeamish about differences and diversity. I’m the observant Jew who studied religious pluralism at a divinity school, and who’s written about everything from Hare Krishnas to Mormons to evangelicals. The last thing I want is to bring my daughter up in a world where she thinks everyone behaves and believes as we do, or looks down on those who don’t. Well… maybe that’s the second-to-last thing I want–the very last being bringing her up in a world where she doesn’t understand, appreciate, and love our own tradition and heritage, and in which she is jealous or angry that we don’t do as others do.
Easier said than done. I often see why people resort to simplistic extremes when teaching kids about these things. At one extreme, Us good, them bad, or wrong, or lesser. At the other end of the spectrum, Difference is irrelevant, we’re all really the same, everything beyond lowest-common-denominator agreement should be downplayed or tossed.
But I can’t go with either of those poles. How do I raise a child who at once feels deeply Jewish, who identifies with our particular way of being in the world, while at the same time understands, celebrates, and embraces the diversity all around us? Particular vs. universal. Tribe vs. world. It’s hard enough for us adults to navigate the terrain sometimes. But a child?
I think we are doing ok. I’ve tried to talk to Adira about what we believe and what others believe. She knows we go to shul (synagogue), and many other people, including Karen, the babysitter she loves so much, goes to something else, called a church. We pray and Karen prays, only differently. Adira knows she eats kosher food and others do not. She seems to love our lifestyle and be curious about how others live. And she knows that Santa is them and menorahs are us.
For now. We’ll see what the next couple of months hold, as Christmas fever descends on our society. Caillou is one thing, but what happens when carols and Santas and decorations are inescapable, and the beauty of Christmas tangible? I sometimes feel tugged toward it myself. Won’t she? I have no problem with her learning about Christmas or even liking what she sees, but will she really be able to understand why we don’t partake? Will our menorahs and chocolate coins and jelly donuts and gifts be able to compete? (A friend recently was shopping with his 3-year-old when they encountered a massive Santa display. “Look, it’s Hashem,” his daughter exclaimed, using the Hebrew word for God.)
At least Caillou has a Jewish friend to help me in my task.Add a Comment
Tags: Caillou, Christmas, christmas trees, diversity, Hanukkah, Holidays, judaism, menorah, Religion, Santa, teaching tolerance, tolerance, understanding religion | Categories: GoodyBlog, Holidays, Your Child, Your Life