Hanukkah Girls in a Christmas World



Christmas has always been one of my favorite holidays. I love the lights, the decorations, the movies, and the overall spirit. And don’t get me started on my love of Mariah Carey’s “Merry Christmas” album. Once the radio stations start playing Christmas music, those stations stay on until the last day they play them! And it’s been like this for as long as I can remember. There’s just one little catch, I’m Jewish.

Throughout my life, I’ve enjoyed experiencing Christmas with my friends, extended family, and boyfriends who celebrated and that was good enough for me. So you can imagine my (mild) disappointment when I ended up marrying a lovely Jewish man, with whom I am now raising two lovely Jewish daughters. But the Christmas spirit is contagious, and I’ve passed along my love to my own children, and that’s when things get tricky.

We celebrate Hanukkah in our house. We light our menorah, say our prayers, make our latkes, and open our gifts. And it’s WONDERFUL. I truly do enjoy passing on my traditions to my girls, and they’re getting pretty good at spinning a dreidel. But every year, right around Thanksgiving, I feel the twinge of guilt when I hear, “Can I ask Santa for (insert random toy request)?” and I always say, ” We’re Jewish! Put it on your Hanukkah list!” but that’s hard.

Kids don’t know about religion, they know about the mystique of the jolly old man in red, bringing gifts to good boys and girls all over the world. It’s a difficult thing to avoid when you’re bombarded in every store, and every commercial, and basically everywhere! As an example, we were doing some last minute grocery shopping right before Thanksgiving, and as we pulled up to our favorite grocery store my 7 year old said, “Look at all these Christmas trees! It’s like they totally skipped over Thanksgiving AND Hanukkah!” to which my husband replied under his breathe, “Get used to everyone skipping over Hanukkah, kid.” and we both laughed.

I try to show them the joy in our own beautiful celebrations and decorations, but it’s hard when the Hanukkah “section” is one small table, or even just one shelf on the end of an aisle. I realize that Christmas is a real business, but try explaining to your 7 year old that Santa doesn’t bring gifts to her because shes the “wrong” religion. Any way you slice it, it’s a tough thing. So to pacify my children’s quest to be the perfect girls for Santa, he DOES usually leave one small gift by the fireplace for them. I can keep that tiny facade up until they’re old enough to not believe. 

As for the rest of it, I think we’ve finally got to the point with my 7 year old that she understands that we just won’t have a Christmas tree, but snowflake lights and dreidel garland is fine. You’d be amazed at what you can find if you go to enough stores, one tiny Hanukkah section at a time. 


  1. Santa Claus and Christmas trees are really pagan mythology – one from coke, one from ancient germanic celebrations of the winter… you should be okay with them. If the kids start asking for an Advent calendar and a nativity, then it gets tricky ?


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