Explaining Christmas to My Half-Jewish Child

by Meredith Hale
Originally Published: 
A half-Jewish child in a grey-red knit sweater hanging decorations on a Christmas tree

I’ve been thinking a lot about Jesus lately.

Perhaps this is strange, given that I’m Jewish. But, since my husband is Catholic, Jesus is starting to be more of a factor in my family’s life – especially this time of year. Suddenly, my 5-year-old is starting to ask questions, about God, and Heaven, and her place in it all. And, with Christmas coming, questions about Jesus can’t be far behind.

When it comes to religion, let’s just say she’s a little confused. I realized just how confused when we had this conversation:

Daughter: You know that guy who saved the world? Umm…God?

Mommy: Yes? Daughter: Well, why did Santa—I mean God—put Disney World in Florida? And why can’t Santa—I mean God—make the whole world Florida?

Where do I even start?

Clearly, we’ve neglected her religious education. In all honesty, we’ve been avoiding the subject. Neither of us are what I’d call “practicing,” and we’ve been content to put off this conversation to a later day. Some things have been relatively easy to explain. Like Moses. We simply stuck our daughter in front of Disney’s The Prince of Egypt, gave her some popcorn, and let the enlightenment unfold. She seemed fine with it all – except, maybe, for the slavery, the subjugation of women, and the whole “smiting of the firstborn” thing. Not that I can blame her.

But Jesus is different. This will be the first time that we have to explain to her that Mommy and Daddy don’t agree, that we have two different beliefs with not much middle ground. And, to further blow her 5-year-old mind, we’ll have to explain that neither of us is necessarily wrong. I’d always planned to explain the two religions, and allow her to draw her own conclusions. However, while that’s logical for, say, a 15-year-old, I’m not sure expecting a 5-year-old to form an opinion on whether or not mankind has encountered the messiah is reasonable.

As my daughter is in a “Mommy phase,” she’ll probably side with me on this one. Old Testament one, New Testament zero. Of course, when she enters her rebellious teenage years, she’ll get back at Mommy by joining Jews for Jesus, or, even more shocking, declaring she doesn’t really like gefilte fish. For now – as with the other profound mysteries of life – the concepts of God and Christianity are something we’ll have to introduce gradually, and as simply as possible. After all, in a sense, Christmas is really a birthday party. And what 5-year-old doesn’t love a birthday party? Especially one where she gets to keep all the presents?

Hopefully, as we stumble through the basics of Judeo-Christian theology, my daughter won’t be overwhelmed by our lack of clear, definitive answers. She’ll accept that some questions have no answers, the same way she blindly accepts that soda is bad for her, even though Mommy practically mainlines Diet Dr. Pepper. As thoughtful and contemplative as she is, she’s still five. No matter how adeptly we explain the significance of Christmas, it’s still, first and foremost, going to be “Anna and Elsa Gift Day” in her world.

And really, as long as she doesn’t expect Jesus to transform Earth into a giant, Orlando-inspired theme park, I think we’ve done our job.

For now.

Related post: My Interfaith Marriage

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