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
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Fri
Jun
  29
7:00 PM - 7:45 PM
 
Temple B'nai Shalom
7612 Old Ox Road, Fairfax Station VA 22039
Please join us for Tot Shabbat. 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:  

 
 
Sat
Jun
  30
10:30 AM - 11:15 AM
 
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation
7727 Persimmon Tree Lane, Bethesda MD 20817
Summer is here! Join the fun for our wonderful Tot Shabbat led by Ellie Schuchman. Come pray, sing, make friends, and enjoy the community.
Listed In:  Families, Maryland, Reconstructionist, Children/Teens/Family, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  

 
 
Fri
Jul
  6
6:15 PM - 8:00 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 hek...
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Families, Seniors, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost:  

 
 
Thu
Jul
  12
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
 
Temple Rodef Shalom
2100 Westmoreland Street, Falls Church VA 22043
This event is intended for participants to attend the entire scheduled time/series.
We have a unique opportunity to explore the High Holy days from many different angles – just as Abigail Pogrebin did in her book My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew. She took the time to examine each holiday over the course of a year. . .interviewing people, tasting different foods, pushing her own boundaries with new experiences. . .Rodef Reads, our congregational read and year-l...
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Interfaith, Seniors, Northern Virginia, Reform, Adult Education, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  

 
 
Sat
Jul
  14
9:30 AM - 10:00 AM
 
Congregation Etz Hayim (Congregation Etz Hayim (Conservative))
2920 Arlington Blvd., Arlington VA 22204
9:30 Club: Meditation on 2nd Saturday of each month. Drop-in and stay for services at 10am. Kiddush follows services.
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Seniors, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Fitness & Wellness, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  

 
 
Sat
Jul
  14
10:30 AM - 11:15 AM
 
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation
7727 Persimmon Tree Lane, Bethesda MD 20817
Summer is here! Join the fun for our wonderful Tot Shabbat led by Ellie Schuchman. Come pray, sing, make friends, and enjoy the community.
Listed In:  Families, Maryland, Reconstructionist, Children/Teens/Family, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  

 
 
Sun
Jul
  15
5:00 PM - 7:00 PM
 
Congregation Etz Hayim (Congregation Etz Hayim (Conservative))
2920 Arlington Blvd., Arlington VA 22204
Dairy/vegetarian potluck picnic, a concert with "Here Comes Trouble", and ice cream! Tu B’Av – the Jewish Day of Love - has been celebrated for thousands of years! In Israel, it is celebrated in many of the same ways that we celebrate Valentine’s Day in the US. Metro DC based kiddie rock heroes "Here Comes Trouble" is a band that is all about being silly, having fun, and finding the adventure in everything. Cosponsored by Congregation Etz Hayim and PJ Library No prior knowledge of Tu B’Av re...
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Arts & Culture, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), PJ Library Co-Sponsored, Social Events
Event Cost:  Free; Free but RSVP required

 
 
Thu
Jul
  19
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
 
Temple Rodef Shalom
2100 Westmoreland Street, Falls Church VA 22043
This event is intended for participants to attend the entire scheduled time/series.
We have a unique opportunity to explore the High Holy days from many different angles – just as Abigail Pogrebin did in her book My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew. She took the time to examine each holiday over the course of a year. . .interviewing people, tasting different foods, pushing her own boundaries with new experiences. . .Rodef Reads, our congregational read and year-l...
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Interfaith, Seniors, Northern Virginia, Reform, Adult Education, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  

 
 
Fri
Jul
  20
5:30 PM - 6:00 PM
 
Agudas Achim Congregation
2908 Valley Drive, Alexandria VA 22302
Friday night service for kids 0-5 and parents with songs, instruments, scarves, dancing parachutes, challah and juice.
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Children/Teens/Family, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Parenting, PJ Library Co-Sponsored
Event Cost:  

 
 
Sat
Jul
  21
9:00 AM - 10:00 AM
 
Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia (JCC of Northern Virginia-Community Engagement Department)
2100 Westmoreland Street, Falls Church VA 22043
Join Growing Jewish Families for the next stop on our Tot Shabbat Train: Temple Rodef Shalom in Falls Church! Share Shabbat with families from the JCCNV's Growing Jewish Families program and visit different synagogue Tot Shabbats all around Northern Virginia. Services this month begin at 9 am and will be held at Bunny's Place outdoors (weather permitting). Highlights include: singing, stories, tot-sized prayers, and a snack. The atmosphere is warm and welcoming; there is no dress code; and the...
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover), Social Events
Event Cost:  

 
 
Sat
Jul
  21
9:00 AM - 10:30 AM
 
Temple Rodef Shalom
2100 Westmoreland Street, Falls Church VA 22043
Throw on your flip flops and come over for a little singin’, a little clappin’, a little prayin’. . .and a whole lot of fun! We’re shaking it up by hosting Tot Shabbat on a Saturday morning in Bunny’s Place, our outdoor worship space, weather permitting. Following our casual morning service, we’ll enjoy a snack together and some arts and crafts. The service is just right for our youngest and squirmiest. No need to be a Temple Rodef Shalom member to attend! All families welcome! Contact: Cookie...
Listed In:  Families, Northern Virginia, Reform, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  

 
 
Sat
Jul
  21
9:30 AM - 10:00 AM
 
Congregation Etz Hayim (Congregation Etz Hayim (Conservative))
2920 Arlington Blvd., Arlington VA 22204
Drop-in for Parashat HaShavuah (Torah portion discussion) on the 3rd Saturday of each month at 9:30am. Sponsored by the Samuel & Jean Koshar Rothstein Memorial Fund. Stay for Shabbat services at 10am. Kiddush follows services.
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Seniors, Northern Virginia, Conservative, Adult Education, History/Education, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  

 
 
Thu
Jul
  26
7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
 
Temple Rodef Shalom
2100 Westmoreland Street, Falls Church VA 22043
This event is intended for participants to attend the entire scheduled time/series.
We have a unique opportunity to explore the High Holy days from many different angles – just as Abigail Pogrebin did in her book My Jewish Year: 18 Holidays, One Wondering Jew. She took the time to examine each holiday over the course of a year. . .interviewing people, tasting different foods, pushing her own boundaries with new experiences. . .Rodef Reads, our congregational read and year-l...
Listed In:  20’s-30’s-40’s, Boomers, Interfaith, Seniors, Northern Virginia, Reform, Adult Education, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost:  

 
 
Sat
Jul
  28
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:  

 
 
Sat
Jul
  28
10:30 AM - 11:15 AM
 
Adat Shalom Reconstructionist Congregation
7727 Persimmon Tree Lane, Bethesda MD 20817
Summer is here! Join the fun for our wonderful Tot Shabbat led by Ellie Schuchman. Come pray, sing, make friends, and enjoy the community.
Listed In:  Families, Maryland, Reconstructionist, Children/Teens/Family, Holiday/Shabbat (High Holidays, Chanukah, Passover)
Event Cost: