You’re not a bad Jewish mom if your kid wants Santa Claus to come to your house. You haven’t failed to share your love of Judaism l’dor v’dor from your generation to the next. Christmas in America, Santa Claus and everything else wrapped up in all the tinsel and joy is just really enticing. There’s about a billion dollars of marketing expenses hoping you’ll think so.
So what do you say to your Jewish kid when they are upset about Santa?
Here’s what I say to mine: “We celebrate Hanukkah and other families celebrate Christmas Santa is part of the Christmas celebration and we have our own fun family traditions that are part of Hanukkah. And you know what, you’ll still get presents even without Santa being part of it. I totally get that Santa sounds like a lot of fun! It’s OK to be sad that he’s not part of our traditions and you’re allowed to be mad that he doesn’t come to our house and we can’t go visit him. You can always tell me how you feel. I know you’re disappointed, let’s come up with a list of all the fun things you want to make sure to do together during Hanukkah this year.”
There’s two really important messages I want to make sure my kids understand here and they actually have NOTHING to do with Judaism. 1. It’s ok to be upset about things that are hard. It’s ok to have feelings and to feel them. And 2. It’s ok to share those feelings with mom and dad, that’s what we’re here for.
No one escapes some jealousy and some resentment and no faith is perfectly appealing. Judaism isn’t designed to be the Disneyland of religions, it’s not fun all the time and the point of faith isn’t that it makes life more fun but that it makes life more meaningful. The story of Hanukkah reaffirms the idea that we can triumph over adversity and that we can find a way to kindle light in the darkness. These are beautiful values that give us resolve throughout our lives. It’s in those early years though where we don’t see the fruits of these lessons in our children. We often only hear the complaints about why we can’t do this or that on Shabbat or how unfair it is that Santa isn’t coming down our chimney. Know that through your demonstration of your own love and commitment to Judaism your kids are listening and learning.
I also give you full permission to go BIG on Hanukkah! Some folks will shake their heads and say ‘it’s not the Jewish Christmas’ but honestly I’ve had so many Christian parents tell me that Christmas as it’s observed in America today (Santa Claus and all) isn’t even the Christian Christmas! So in my heart I just do everything to the fullest, if you’ve been following me for a while you know I think Judaism is a blessing in life and if it increases your family’s joy to buy large presents each of the eight nights there’s no halachah (Jewish law) against it! And even with all that if your kids are still sad about missing the big jolly guy in red, just know that you are NOT a bad Jewish mom, and not a bad mom at all.
Marion Haberman is a writer and content creator for her YouTube/MyJewishMommyLife channel and Instagram @MyJewishMommyLife page where she shares her experience living a meaning-FULL Jewish family life. Haberman is the author of Judaism and pregnancy book “Expecting Jewish!” She is also a professional social media consultant and web and television writer for Discovery Channel, NOAA and NatGeo and has an MBA from Georgetown University.