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  • Alicia Chandler

Jewish Christmas and Other Holiday Traditions


After the first decade or so celebrating Christmas with my husband’s family, I had a confession to make. I missed Jewish Christmas. For many, Jewish Christmas consists of eating at a Chinese restaurant and going to the movies. (For background on this tradition – READ MORE ). As trivial as this tradition might sound, I genuinely missed it.


Holidays consist of traditions and religious obligations, but it would be overly simplistic to elevate the importance of the religious obligations and reduce the importance of the traditions. On Hanukkah, it is a religious obligation to light the menorah. It is not a religious obligation to gather with my parents and my sister’s family to eat latkes and layered salad, but I simply could not imagine the holiday without that tradition. On Christmas, my husband is religiously obligated to go to Mass, but the family tradition of sharing oplatek (a wafer) while giving each family member good wishes for the coming year is just as essential to our Christmas. (For more of the Polish tradition of oplatek, READ MORE).


So while Chinese food and a movie was far from a religious obligation, I really missed it. However, Jewish Christmas obviously did not trump spending one of the holiest days on the Catholic calendar with our family. What is an interfaith family to do? We simply rescheduled Jewish Christmas. Now, every December 26, we go out to a Chinese restaurant and see a movie (or two!) at the theaters. This year COVID required as to carry in and watch Soul from our living room, but the tradition of Jewish Christmas is intact.

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