Explaining religion and holiday traditions to young kids isn’t easy, but can be done in a fun way as I learned with my son.
Celebrating the holidays in an interfaith home isn’t always easy, but it was for me.
When my son was a toddler, I explained the difference between our Christmas and Hanukkah traditions in easy-to-understand, age-appropriate terms.
“Why don’t we have lights?” he asked, incessantly, as we drove through our neighborhood. Nearly every house was adorned with Christmas lights of all sizes and hues, many blinking.
“We do!” I would say, excitedly. “But, remember, our lights are the lights on the candles in the menorah for Hanukkah.”
As moms of little ones can attest, he wasn’t always immediately accepting of my answer.
“We don’t have Christmas at our house?”
“No,” I gently reminded him. “Remember, we have Christmas at Nana and Grampy’s house. We have Hanukkah at our house. We go to their house for Christmas, and they come to ours for Hanukkah.”
As the holiday season continued, we would drive the same way home each day.
One afternoon, we passed a row of houses, each decorated with colorful, flashing Christmas lights.
“Wow. Look at all of the pretty lights,” I said while driving.
My son sat behind me in his car seat and I heard him mutter this phrase, with a tinge of annoyance in his voice:
“I’m not blinking, I’m Jewish.”
I didn’t want to laugh out loud, but couldn’t help chuckling as I repeated, for the millionth time, why we don’t have Christmas lights.
The way he said it made him sound like a 30-something man talking to his shrink, not a curious 3-year-old. My mother-in-law and I decided it would be a great name for a book. Maybe someday it will be, who knows?
My son is a teenager now. He can drive our car around the neighborhood to gaze at Christmas lights or gleaming menorahs in the windows.
We still relay his, “I’m not blinking, I’m Jewish,” story every year because it really was a defining moment when it came to teaching kids about celebrating holidays in an interfaith home.
How do you explain celebrating Christmas and Hanukkah to your kids?