My wife was not raised in a Jewish home. She went through a full conversation over 7 years ago. We have a Jewish home and are active in our local Jewish community. We have a two year old son and are hoping to send him to day school.
Her parents, being Christian, celebrate Christmas. Every year, my wife and I have an argument about what to do. To honor her parents, my wife thinks we should celebrate with them fully, going to their church and opening presents under the tree.
When we didn’t have a child, this wasn’t much of an issue. My wife and are are strong in our identity. However, now that we have a son, I think we should not participate since it is not our holiday.
My wife explains, that it is only one day a year and our son will see that some people have different traditions and practices from us. She says our son will have a strong Jewish identity with weekly Shabbat dinners, great times in the Sukkah, strong Passover traditions, wonderful times with his Jewish classmates and friends, and many other frequent Jewish activities.
We have tried to find advise online, but all sources explain what to do in interfaith households; how to celebrate both Christmas and Hanukkah at the same time. This does not apply to us since we are not intermarried, but a fully Jewish home.
I do not know what to do. On one hand, I understand the importance of honoring her parents, but on the other hand, it is not our holiday and I want nothing to do with it and do not want to expose our son to a tradition that is not his.
Can you please share some guidance and wisdom?
I understand your dilemma, on one hand you want to have a totally Jewish home, on the other hand your wife, how has made tremendous sacrifice to convert and become Jewish, still feels she should participate in the Christian holiday. Besides this she doesn’t want to hurt her parents. Scripture and the talmud have the highest respect for those who, left what they had, and converted. The torah commands us over 30 times to treat a convert with extra care!
From a strictly halachic standpoint there are some issues first of all with going to church, as we may not go into a building of avodah zara, especially when it is when they are actually worshipping. Secondly, celebrating X-mas with Christians is joining them in their holiday, which is also problematic, (see http://dinonline.org/2016/12/21/may-i-be-part-of-our-offices-holiday-party/) .
There is also another issue here, that it is great that you are giving your child a good, solid Jewish education, however if he is going to have fond memories of Jewish and Christian holidays, we don’t want him to be mixed up and to have an identity issue.
Regarding the aspect of honoring your parents, halachically is wouldn’t be an issue, as the obligation is waved when it contradicts the halacha. Obviously this doesn’t at all mean to be disrespectful to them, and it is important to keep up a respectful relationship with them.
If I can suggest that you somehow explain to your parents that you can’t go with them to church or be part of the party, but you would like to visit them on a different day and spend time together.
May you both have much success in all areas of your life, and have much joy from your son, and may he grow up to be a G-d fearing Jew, and a talmid chacham, and bring you both the joy that you deserve.
Y:D 149-1,2, Also see Rema and the halacha is like the second opinion, Tzitz Eliezer 14-91, Yechave Daas 4-45, KIddushin 31a, Yevamos 32.