The Great Christmas Tree Debate
To many Christians (and non-Christians who like to decorate a nice tree — no judging), a Christmas tree is something you buy after Thanksgiving that smells pretty and is beautiful centerpiece at holiday parties where there is much food and merriment and creamy sweet drinks that are deceptively crammed with alcohol. A Christmas tree isn’t a statement. It’s just something you do.
Unless, of course, you’re not Christian, in which case Christmas trees are something that other people do. Great!
Or not. It turns out that 80 percent of Americans buy Christmas trees every year, slightly more than the number of Christians in America. Yet of the 20 percent of those who abstain from evergreens, less than half cite a religious reason for doing so. The rest are too busy traveling or behaving inappropriately at their office holiday party. In fact, the majority of non-Christians in America participate in some sort of Christmas celebration, whether it’s a dinner, gift giving or putting up a tree. Sometimes religion is a nonstarter: One in three Jewish-Americans grew up with a Christmas tree in their home.
But for many interfaith families, a Christmas tree isn’t just aromatic seasonal décor but a decision fraught with questions of religious faith and family tradition and exclusion and inclusion and oh god does that mean we can never be together because what about my [INSERT OTHER RELIGION] identity?
And what about the children?
Some of us at The Mash-Up Americans grew up Woodwork Christians (you know, Christians that come out of the woodwork on Christmas and Easter) with a tree that was obviously the highlight of their holiday season. Some of us grew up thinking Hannukkah Bushes were a real thing and so therefore at least two of the major religions really were not that different at all in their choice of winter shrubbery. Some of us grew up Jewish hearing the phrase “Christmas Tree Jews” sniffed at Jewish families who put up a pine tree for funsies.
Now as grown-ups, we find ourselves in interfaith relationships trying to figure out what comes next. What do you do at Christmas?