I recently converted to Judaism, but am concerned that I will miss out on Christmas. How should I deal with this?

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Answered by: Jessica, An Expert in the Converting to Judaism Category
Christmas is a holiday that many who grew up with have fond memories of. For some, it was a time when a family that didn't get along the rest of the year came together. For others, it was a joyful time of celebrating with relatives you didn't see the rest of the year. As we get older, Christmas often is not as significant as it was when a child (waiting all year for Christmas, and it seemed like it would never come?), but many adults still have affection towards the holiday and seek to make it special for those in their lives, especially children.

When I converted to Judaism, I was anxious about what role Christmas would play in my life, too. While I had no interest in the religious significance of the holiday (for obvious reasons!), I did love the shopping, giving, singing, and time with family that it entailed. What I learned is that if you are deeply involved in the Jewish calendar, there are so many opportunities to celebrate throughout the year that you will not feel as though Christmas is the only opportunity to have those positive feelings. Think about the dressing up and drinking at Purim, the eating (and eating, and eating) and sharing at a Passover Seder; the joy and gift giving associated with the new year, Rosh Hashanah, and the solemness and awe that comes with Yom Kippur. And these are just some of the more significant holidays and traditions that you are gaining with your conversion.

I also learned that Christmas is sort of like a birthday party for a friend - it's not your party or your day, but you can help your friend celebrate. That's what I do when I am invited to Christmas parties and other holiday-related events. And yes, I do spend the day with my family and in-laws, both of whom celebrate the holiday. Judaism places a high value on family, and I did not give up my family when I converted. I am helping them celebrate a holiday that has meaning for them and feel grateful for the time it allows me to get to know them on a deeper level, help alleviate some holiday-associated stress, and graciously share with them the traditions and holidays of my new religion when asked.

The first couple of years doing this was an adjustment, and you should expect that you will have mixed emotions around this period of time for a while to come. Now, however, five years after my conversion, I actually feel glad that I don't have to get as wrapped up in the incessant stress and overall insanity associated with a modern American Christmas. It is an opportunity to make some choices to help others who are less fortunate, spend quality time with family and friends, contemplate the past year and my goals for the next, and take a few steps back from life and breathe. Don't feel that since you have converted to Judaism you are missing out - your new religion should make you feel joyful about what you have gained.

Hannukkah also falls around Christmas, and has become recently more commercialized than ever, with the retail industry trying to capitalize on the concept of eight nights of giving, instead of just one massive day! However, in the Jewish calendar, Hannukkah is actually one of the less significant holidays, and really cannot be compared to the significance that Christmas holds in today's calendar and year for many people. Don't try to substitute Hannukkah for Christmas - it's a different sort of holiday, and that's ok.

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