Chanukah Chai-lights

5 Tips for Navigating a Chanukah-Christmas Overlap in Interfaith Families

1.) Communicate With Your Partner Before Speaking with the Children. Being on the same page with your partner is crucial.  Traditions and culture can be very emotional, so communication is key. Have a conversation with your partner before the holidays, and if you can, before you get married. Talk about the things that are important to you - traditions you wish to uphold in your household and listen to your partner when he/she expresses those things as well. The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington suggests having these conversations BEFORE you speak with your kids so they sense that their parents are on the same page.

2.) Be Respectful of the Grandparent Generation.
Think about ways you want to honor and include the the grandparents em. It can be nice to have a special celebration for each holiday with each set of grandparents. You can visit The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington’s PJ Library page for ideas to do for the Jewish holidays.

3.) Give Each Holiday Its Due.
Make sure you give enough attention to each tradition separately. Sometimes mashing up traditions like having latkes on Christmas isn’t the best way to do it. What are the traditions that each of you grew up doing on Christmas Day?  Which are important and can be incorporated?  Which may need to be adjust or compromised on?  When possible, have a Christmas celebration at a different time than the Chanukah celebration, though you should light the menorah candles every night of Chanukah, even when there's overlap.  The Federation’s Jewish Life and Learning resources can help families add a bit more about the values around Chanukah like working to make the world brighter and warmer like the lights of Chanukah do.

4.) Find a Good Time to Talk With Your Kids.
Talking with your kids about tradition is important but finding a good time to do it can be hard. Try speaking with your kids during reading time. The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington implements PJ Library in Greater Washington which delivers free children's books about Jewish topics to Jewish and interfaith families.  One book that is a good way to bring up the subject of the holidays is Nonna’s Hanukkah Surprise, which is about an interfaith family.

5.) Find a Good Way to Talk With Your Kids.
Other than reading time, boys in particular are good to speak with when they are using their hands. Crafts can be a great time to start a conversation around tradition. Making a menorah out of glass votives or mason jars is a nice craft to do to speak about Chanukah. This can be done with materials that parents have at home or can be easily obtained – glass jars, votives or tealight holders and decorations such as Sharpies, tissue paper, glue, paint and stickers.  Get the directions here.
 

 The December Opportunity

By Sarah Rabin Spira, Manager, PJ Library at The Jewish Federation of Greater Washington

This season has been called the “December Dilemma” because of the confusion children may feel due to the proximity of Chanukah and Christmas. But confusion and anxiety may also occur in adults, when issues of competing cultures arise; and the pressure may be acute for interfaith families. For that reason, we choose to call this the “December Opportunity,” an opening for families to have honest discussions about cultures, rituals, identity and respect.
 
When individuals of different faiths, or even when individuals within variations of the practice of Judaism, become partners, the thing to remember is that you are partners, working together to build a life built on trust, communication, kindness and generosity. Have the conversations before issues arise, when they can be addressed calmly rather than in the frantic rush of emotions that come with an intense holiday season (that seems to start earlier each year). Be open about what your absolute needs are, what you can compromise on and what traditions you can start together that feel unique, special and “yours.”
 
Recognize that there may be new topics that arise or previous ones that were not considered and just be in a space to work through them together. Remember that there is no right or wrong answer, and you have to do what works best for you and your family at this time of year. That might mean a different path in different years depending on changing comfort levels and the ages of the children.
 
Be aware that there are sensibilities and sensitivities on both sides, likely going back to childhood memories that your partner may wish to recreate. Be respectful to their families but clear that these are the decisions made by partners, not by individuals within the relationship.
 
And while it’s tempting to call a Christmas tree a “Chanukah Bush,” another key to success is to maintain the distinctiveness of different holidays. Can you have latkes on Christmas Eve? Sure. But it might be better to reserve them for their own dates if they don’t overlap that year. Feeling like each holiday (and its accompanying memories, family opinions, traditions) is being honored will help make the holiday season a time of opportunity to reflect, redefine and rejoice.

Click here for PJLibrary’s List of Family-Friendly Chanukah Events

Upcoming Events
View All Events
 
Fri
Dec
  21
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
 
Washington Hebrew Congregation
3935 Macomb St, NW, Washington DC 20016
Join us for a fun, fulfilling, engaging service perfect for families with young children (or grandchildren). We begin our evening with an engaging, interactive Tot Shabbat service that focuses on teaching Jewish prayers, traditions, and rituals through songs, stories, and art project. A family-style, family-friendly dinner follows the service.
Listed In:  Families, DC, Reform, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  Free; Free

 
 
Fri
Dec
  21
5:30 PM - 9:00 PM
 
Washington Hebrew Congregation
555 Water St. SW, Washington DC 20024
District Shabbat combines the high energy of Washington and the deep spirituality of Reform Judaism to create this all-ages downtown Shabbat experience along the beautiful Southwest Waterfront. Tot Shabbat & Family Dinner (perfect for families with young children) 5:30 pm Cost: Free Shot of Torah (A spirited discussion with WHC’s rabbis fueled by soft drinks, adult beverages, and hors d’oeuvres) 6:15 pm Cost: Free Shabbat Service featuring WHC’s clergy and internationally celebrated musician...
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Families, Seniors, DC, Reform, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost:  Free; $18 for dinner

 
 
Sat
Dec
  22
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM
 
Congregation Adat Reyim
6500 Westbury Oaks Court, Springfield VA 22152
Join us for a family friendly shabbat where we encourage preschoolers and young children to celebrate the shabbat with us. Friendly songs, enjoyable music, and a welcoming atmosphere at Congregational Adat Reyim.
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Reform, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Parenting
Event Cost:  

 
 
Fri
Jan
  4
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
 
Congregation Etz Hayim (Congregation Etz Hayim Preschool)
2920 Arlington Blvd., Arlington VA 22204
Join us on the first and third Friday mornings of each month for a Shabbat-themed hour of play and song. Contact Preschool Director Alexis Joyce at preschool@etzhayim.net for more information or to tour our school. There is NO PLAYGROUP on the following Fridays: 11/16/18 12/21/18 4/19/19
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Children/Teens/Family, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost:  

 
 
Fri
Jan
  4
5:30 PM - 9:00 PM
 
Temple Shalom
8401 Grubb Road, Chevy Chase MD 20815
Temple Shalom First Fridays Tot Shabbat 5:30 PM Congregational Potluck 6:15 PM Erev Shabbat Family Service 7:30 PM
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Families, Maryland, Reform, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), PJ Library Co-Sponsored, Social Events
Event Cost:  Free; Free

 
 
Fri
Jan
  4
6:15 PM - 8:15 PM
 
Congregation Etz Hayim (Congregation Etz Hayim (Conservative))
2920 Arlington Blvd., Arlington VA 22204
Join us for a delicious and vibrant potluck dinner on the first Friday of every month following the Kabbalat Shabbat service. This is one of our most popular events, especially with families with young children. Services start at 6:15pm. Dinner starts at approximately 7:30pm. Potluck Guidelines Food should be vegetarian (dairy or pareve ), made using hekshered ingredients, and brought in a disposable pan/container. Food cannot be heated in our kitchen. Not a home cook? Pick up something heksh...
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Families, Interfaith, Seniors, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost:  

 
 
Fri
Jan
  11
1:15 PM - 2:45 PM
 
Gesher Jewish Day School
4800 Mattie Moore Court, Fairfax VA 22030
Monthly Playgroup for Children Ages 0 - 5 Open play for first 45 minutes and then join in the All School Kabbalat Shabbat, singing, dancing, and Birthday of the Month celebration. RSVP requested
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Children/Teens/Family, Arts & Culture, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), PJ Library Co-Sponsored
Event Cost:  

 
 
Fri
Jan
  11
6:15 PM - 7:30 PM
 
Congregation Etz Hayim (Congregation Etz Hayim (Conservative))
2920 Arlington Blvd., Arlington VA 22204
Join us at 6:15 p.m. for evenings of melodic worship with a little groove thrown in by our own congregational band! Services followed by kiddush and nosh. This event is especially fun for families with young children.
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Families, Interfaith, Seniors, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost:  

 
 
Sat
Jan
  12
11:00 AM - 12:30 PM
 
Congregation Etz Hayim (Congregation Etz Hayim (Conservative))
2920 Arlington Blvd., Arlington VA 22204
This is not your average Shabbat morning service! This is a learning service (plus donuts and juice!) designed for students in Grades 2-6. CEH Director of Religious Education and congregants lead the service. We emphasize learning the service (order of prayers, choreography of worship) and a foster a high level of participation, including a lively discussion of the weekly parsha (Torah portion). With active learning, song, and prayer our students learn both "keva" (order of the service) and "ka...
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Children/Teens/Family, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  

 
 
Fri
Jan
  18
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
 
Congregation Etz Hayim (Congregation Etz Hayim Preschool)
2920 Arlington Blvd., Arlington VA 22204
Join us on the first and third Friday mornings of each month for a Shabbat-themed hour of play and song. Contact Preschool Director Alexis Joyce at preschool@etzhayim.net for more information or to tour our school. There is NO PLAYGROUP on the following Fridays: 11/16/18 12/21/18 4/19/19
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Children/Teens/Family, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost:  

 
 
Tue
Jan
  22
7:00 PM - 8:00 PM
 
Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School (CESJDS Annette M. & Theodore N. Lerner Family Upper School Campus)
11710 Hunters Lane, Rockville MD 20852
Former CESJDS Parent and author, David Brooks, author of The Road To Character, will speak about his newest book.
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Seniors, Maryland, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  

 
 
Fri
Jan
  25
7:00 PM - 7:45 PM
 
Temple B'nai Shalom
7612 Old Ox Road, Fairfax Station VA 22039
Please join us for a very special Tot Shabbat featuring Jewish rocker Sheldon Low! Tot Shabbat is especially for newborns through second graders, and their parents. The service includes lots of music, child-friendly prayers, and stories and activities. It lasts about a half hour and is followed by a special kid-friendly oneg. We will look forward to seeing you at this wonderful service!
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Reform, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), PJ Library Co-Sponsored
Event Cost:  

 
 
Fri
Feb
  1
11:00 AM - 12:00 PM
 
Congregation Etz Hayim (Congregation Etz Hayim Preschool)
2920 Arlington Blvd., Arlington VA 22204
Join us on the first and third Friday mornings of each month for a Shabbat-themed hour of play and song. Contact Preschool Director Alexis Joyce at preschool@etzhayim.net for more information or to tour our school. There is NO PLAYGROUP on the following Fridays: 11/16/18 12/21/18 4/19/19
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Children/Teens/Family, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost:  

 
 
Fri
Feb
  1
5:30 PM - 9:00 PM
 
Temple Shalom
8401 Grubb Road, Chevy Chase MD 20815
Temple Shalom First Fridays Tot Shabbat 5:30 PM Congregational Potluck 6:15 PM Erev Shabbat Family Service 7:30 PM
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Families, Maryland, Reform, Children/Teens/Family, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), PJ Library Co-Sponsored, Social Events
Event Cost:  Free; Free

 
 
Fri
Feb
  1
6:15 PM - 8:15 PM
 
Congregation Etz Hayim (Congregation Etz Hayim (Conservative))
2920 Arlington Blvd., Arlington VA 22204
Join us for a delicious and vibrant potluck dinner on the first Friday of every month following the Kabbalat Shabbat service. This is one of our most popular events, especially with families with young children. Services start at 6:15pm. Dinner starts at approximately 7:30pm. Potluck Guidelines Food should be vegetarian (dairy or pareve ), made using hekshered ingredients, and brought in a disposable pan/container. Food cannot be heated in our kitchen. Not a home cook? Pick up something heksh...
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Families, Interfaith, Seniors, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost: