Not everybody celebrates Christmas in the same way – or at all. Here’s how three different families explain their traditions to their little ones
One of the most exciting parts about starting a family is forming your own traditions, from where you leave your stocking to what’s an acceptable breakfast on the big day. This is even more true if your religion or background gives you a totally different take on the annual event. Whether you only celebrate parts of Christmas, or none at all, your approach to young, curious children will help them understand that even if their friends do things differently, their way is just as meaningful and exciting.
We asked three parents to share their stories.
We celebrate Chanukah instead
Helen’s family celebrates the Jewish winter festival of Chanukah (or Hanukkah) that falls around the Christmas period. “I had a book from a Jewish education agency that explained the importance of helping children understand that they are lucky and what they have is special,” says Helen. “Because of that, we make a huge fuss of Chanukah lasting eight nights with small daily presents, and highlight the special foods we get to eat.
“We don’t celebrate every evening individually although we always light the candles. We acknowledge Christmas Day too, but we just do a traditional family meal and no presents. It’s a great day to get the whole family together as everyone is off of work,” she adds.
“A notorious question children ask Jewish parents is ‘Why doesn’t Father Christmas come down our chimney?’ The usual response is because he knows to look on the doors to check if there is a Mezuzah (a case on doorposts), which shows it’s a Jewish home,” explains Helen. “This works well for the little ones, but you do hear of slightly older kids who feel they have missed out and will take the Mezuzah down!”
We celebrate some parts of Christmas
Dad Umang is from a Hindu family and has a three-year-old daughter. They practice traditional Hindu rituals and visit temple regularly. “We don’t celebrate Christmas religiously but there are some cultural elements we celebrate,” Umang explains. “We put up a Christmas tree at home, and my daughter Sohini gets to be part of a Christmas play at her preschool. She’s been singing ‘Rocking Around the Christmas Tree’ for months! It’s a lovely time of year so it’s nice for her to experience the magic.
“Other than a Christmas tree we don’t do much at home. Sohini gets to meet Father Christmas at nursery, and at our local temple we also have a Father Christmas who comes to hand out presents to the children.”
For Umang, it’s the time of year to celebrate family, and it’s easy for everyone to get together with time off work. “It’s important to us that this time of year is less about the presents, and more about being grateful for family and friends.
“We haven’t reached the point yet where she’s asking questions about why we don’t celebrate Christmas traditionally,” he adds. “I won’t be worried when that time does come though. We embrace the Christmas spirit of family, love and celebration every year.”
We get to celebrate twice
Mum Lian was born in Hong Kong, and moved to the UK when she met her husband. “I never used to celebrate Christmas as a child at home,” she explains. “But since moving to England and having my little girl, we celebrate Christmas traditionally in our house.
“My daughter doesn’t get gifts from her Chinese grandparents for Christmas, but I’ve explained that we have other special times of year to celebrate, like Chinese New Year, where her grandparents will send her money in a red packet. It’s nice being able to celebrate traditions from both sides of the family, and she gets double the fun!”
What traditions do you celebrate at this time of year? Read more about members’ memories of their little one’s first Christmas.