UPDATE: When I first published this blog I was naive and oblivious to the way Jewish people feel about Christians appropriating their heritage. I have had a couple of angry comments from Jewish readers and they were gracious enough to give me alternatives for honoring Jewish culture. I decided not to delete this blog post because I wanted to keep the comments in context with the original work I wrote. I have since learned that adding Jesus to Jewish customs is offensive to Jewish people and that I can embrace their culture without mixing it with my religious traditions. Christians, please read the comments to understand why I have had this change in perspective. I urge you to be sensitive and really listen to the Jewish viewpoint. I encourage you to educate yourself on Jewish history. And then, if you still feel drawn to the culture, explore it with “fear and trembling” and with the guidance of a Jewish rabbi. I am IN NO WAY an expert nor a good example in this regard.
To the Jewish people who have come across this blog, I welcome you to share in the comments if you want to. You have every right to be angry. I am so sorry for the ways that, throughout history, the world has minimized, oppressed, and sought to completely delete you. People who have called themselves “Christians,” have been a part of that — and as a true believer in Jesus, I am sorry. I love your culture because it is full of hope. I understand that “bringing Jesus into it” feels like we are like invalidating your pain and stealing from you. I am so sorry for our ignorance. Now that I know better, I will do better. Thank you for going out of your way to educate us — you shouldn’t have to do that, and you don’t have to. It is our job to be more thorough with our research. Thank you for giving me the benefit of the doubt — you have every right to distrust us. You don’t owe us anything.
I’m pretty sure my love for Jewish culture dates back to my 1st, 2nd & 3rd grade teachers who always took time around the December holidays to teach us about Hanukkah. (Shout out to Ms. Neidenberg ❤️) Growing up in New York City, diversity was always encouraged so we had the privilege to learn about different people groups and religions. I always looked forward to eating potato latkes and applesauce and playing dreidel for chocolate gelt (coins). Those celebrations have stuck with me as some of my favorite childhood memories, along with celebrating Kwanzaa at home and joining my dad’s Indian coworker to celebrate the Hindi Diwali holiday with her family one year. (I can smell and taste the deliciously spicy curry just thinking about it).
Creating Christian Traditions
Now that I am a Christian and especially now that I am a mom, I don’t actively participate in holidays that aren’t about Jesus or are in celebration of other gods. (Though I love having friends who aren’t like me and share their culture with me.) I haven’t celebrated Kwanzaa since I was child because though it is not a religious holiday and I love opportunities to remember my pan-African heritage, I had a hard time reconciling my desire to worship Jesus alone and observe the strong focus on “ancestors.” Maybe I’ll celebrate it again when I can put a clear Christian “twist” on it.
However, since becoming a Christian I’ve felt an even stronger connection to Jewish tradition because Jesus is Jewish. He probably would have observed Hanukkah and Purim (celebrating Esther), as well as the feasts outlined in the Torah, the first 5 books of the Bible. Obviously he observed the Passover (think Last Supper) and He is our Passover lamb.
Celebrating Jewish Holidays As A Christian Family
In Jewish culture, holidays hold a significance in family discipleship. Kids are often given gifts, there is usually food and gathering, and there is often time to attend Temple services. Traditionally, at meal times children will often ask questions relevant to the holiday and parents and other adult relatives will respond, passing on Bible stories and the meaning of the holidays.
The key to celebrating these holidays is rememberance. In many of the Jewish holidays, families are called to remember God and what He has done for them.
All of that being said, as someone who wants to raise my family in Christ, to know God, to remember His word, and to enjoy being Christians, I decided I want to actively begin observing Jewish holidays.
Earlier this year, we celebrated Purim for the first time! Purim is like the Jewish Halloween where families dress up and eat and celebrate the true Biblical account of Esther, who saved the Jewish people from genocide. We made crowns, ate hamantaschen (a snack that is supposed to resemble Haman’s hat) and we read the Bible Story together.
Our Ruth Bible study was actually done around Pentecost because traditionally, Ruth is one of the books of the Bible that is studied around Pentecost. We took that time to learn about the kindness of Ruth and what made it so special is that I collaborated with my beloved mom-in-law to make the craft.
And this month our family is observing Roshashannah with a Christian focus. I made some round challah bread as is customary for the “High Holidays” and I also made apple hand pies because apples and honey are a staple for Rosh Hashanah. I also wrote about a special ceremony called Tashlich that can be observed at the beach (yes, in September) for the Worth Beyond Rubies blog.
Here are some tips and ideas for celebrating Jewish holidays as a Christian family:
1. Do your research.
I read up as much as I could on Jewish holidays through a website called interfaithfamily. They are an organization that helps families that are both Jewish and something else learn more about Jewish culture and determine how traditional or non-traditional they want to be in the Jewish practices. They have lots of free guides on how to celebrate the holidays. Check them out! For a more religious view of each holiday, go to chabad.org to do your research.
2. Ask yourself how these holidays point to Christ.
As Christians we believe that the Messiah is Jesus and that should change our perspective in our celebration of the Jewish holidays. For example, Hanukkah is not just the Festival of Lights, it is our reminder that Jesus is the Light of the World.
3. Determine what these holidays mean to you as a Christian and your goal in celebrating them.
This will help you to figure out which ones to celebrate and why. For example, I wanted to celebrate Purim because I love Esther and wanted an excuse to dress up with my family, make a yummy snack and read the Bible together. Yom Kippur is traditionally a time of fasting and repentance for the Jewish people to become right with God and have their sins forgiven as they enter a new year, but I will be celebrating knowing that I can receive his mercy toward me through Christ Jesus and the righteousness I have in Him.
4. Pick the ones you want to celebrate and plan to do them!
I tend to choose holidays that are fun for kids to participate in. For example Sukkot is a fun holiday because families get to make a “fort” outside and eat underneath it. Sukkot is a celebration of the Torah and families often have all-nighters reading the Bible together. There are many opportunities to get creative with this.
I hope to write more about my own observances of these holidays and share them with you! I already have a recipe for hamantaschen that I want to try next year and can’t wait to share.
Your turn: Have you ever considered celebrating Jewish holidays? ⭐️
Hey sis! I’m Imani, the Young Moms’ Advocate and Legacy Activator, who is here to help your family prosper. Also, I’m probably dancing to Michael Jackson right now.