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How to survive Christmas (when you're not Christian)

Naomi de la Torre is freelance writer and stay-at-home-mom with two delightful boys, ages three and six. Naomi has an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arizona, is a self-proclaimed salsa diva, and can make a killer octopus ...

Christmas culture shock

The trees are glistening with snow and the smell of peppermint and pine trees fills the air. Santa and his elves are at the mall passing out candy canes and the spirit of Christmas is everywhere! It’s a wonderful season, but unfortunately children from families of other cultures and religious traditions can feel a little left out and confused.

Confused little boy

Not invited to the party?

As members of the Baha'i Faith, our family struggles with this each year. We don't have any qualms about our children enjoying the festive spirit of the season, but at the same time, it's important to us that they understand our own religious traditions. And we certainly don't want them to feel like the only kids not invited to the party when Santa makes his personal appearance at their nursery school.

Christmas is a cultural tradition

In this country, Christmas is more than a religious holiday -- it is a cultural tradition. It is true that many people who are not Christian still enjoy celebrating the glittery merry-making of the season. On the other hand, there are those from other backgrounds who feel a little put off by the barrage of Christmas commercialism that begins just days after Halloween and lasts for almost a full two months.

Retain your own identity

If you are raising your children in a different religious or cultural tradition, the best way to confront Christmas is by making sure your children are developing a strong identity in your own faith/culture. Teach your children about your own holy days and celebrate with gusto! Plan special crafts, outings and parties to make the experiences memorable. If you are part of a larger community, plan celebrations as a group so the children can also build lasting friendships with those who share similar beliefs and enhance their own identity.

Erin Margolin, blogger and mother of twin girls, explains, "Our family is Jewish, and yes, my girls ask about Christmas a lot. Especially with all the Christmas lights out at night and the decorations everywhere. Santa also visits their school. They often ask why Santa doesn't come to our house. I tell them that it's because we're Jewish, so we celebrate Hanukkah instead. We do lots of things to help them build a strong Jewish identity. At Hanukkah, the girls love lighting the candles on the menorah. We make the traditional Hanukkah fare: latkes, cheese blintzes and brisket. We have presents, but not every night. We spend time together as a family and usually one of the other nights we gather with some of our other Jewish friends and their children."

Share your traditions with others

Another way to bridge the gap is to invite your friends and neighbors to share in your traditions. Most people are eager to learn about other cultures and would be delighted to be invited to one of your holiday celebrations. This also opens the door for conversations about different cultures and religions.

Your children will learn by experience about the beautiful diversity in the world and will appreciate learning about these differences from an early age. As Baha'u'llah, the prophet founder of the Baha'i Faith, said, "It is not for him to pride himself who loveth his own country, but rather for him who loveth the whole world. The earth is but one country and mankind its citizens."

Read more about other holidays

Don't forget Hanukkah starts 12/1!
Kwanzaa recipes
8 Unique Hanukkah gifts for kids

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