Oy to the world! 28 percent of Jews have a Christmas tree, study finds

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

Oy to the world! 28 percent of Jews have a Christmas tree, study finds

Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) finds twenty-three per cent of us light a Chanukiah AND have a tree

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

We’re Jews and we avoid Christmas, right? Not according to new findings from the Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) conducted by senior research fellow, Dr Carli Lessof.

For it turns out that 28 per cent of us — almost three in ten Jews — have a Christmas tree at home. And that is “some years”, “most years”, or “every year”.

And among Dr Lessof’s findings in Do Jews in the UK celebrate Christmas? are that the older we are, the less likely we are to have a Christmas tree, while younger respondents polled, out of 5,000 of JPR’s panel members, are much readier to embrace the tradition.

The research is part of JPR’s forthcoming National Jewish Identity Survey, due to be published early next year. Among the titbits in ChristmasTreeGate are that while almost no-one who identifies as Orthodox would acknowledge having a tree, an astounding number of Jews who describe themselves as non-practising — 58 per cent — are busy decorating their trees right now.

The matching disparity between religious observance and having a Christmas tree applies to those who place themselves in the Reform or Progressive category — they are more than four times as likely to have a tree at home than those who call themselves “traditional”. Only eight per cent of traditional report having a tree, while 38 per cent of the Progressive camp are tree lovers.

But as Jews who are largely comfortable living in our British host community, almost a quarter of us want to have it both ways. Twenty-three per cent of us have a tree — but we light Chanukah lights as well.

Dr Lessof also notes the huge popularity of Limmud as a potential factor in the Do Jews in the UK celebrate Christmas? conversation. She notes that the decision to run Limmud “was originally simply pragmatic – it is a convenient time because people are off work – but for some, it has become a means of side-stepping Christmas and celebrating their Jewishness instead”.

British Jews have not yet reached Christmas-time practices common among more secular American Jews, notes Dr Lessof — “where common Christmas Day customs among Jews today are to go to the movies and eat out at Chinese restaurants”.

But, she says, the British figures follow a pattern revealed by a 2013 Pew Report, “which found that 32 per cent of American Jews said they had a Christmas tree in the previous year. As in the UK, this was slightly higher among the under-40s and those with no denominational affiliation”.

The Pew figures indicated that those with a non-Jewish partner were ten times more likely (71 per cent) to have a tree than those who had married in. Dr Lessof noted: “In many respects, these findings, both in the US and the UK, capture both the tenacity of Jewishness today and the realities of Jewish life in the modern multicultural age…

“Yet the choice to have a Christmas tree at home also says something about their desire or willingness to absorb wider cultural norms into their lives, and the extent to which they see their Jewishness as a completely exclusive part of who they are. Maintaining a Jewish identity in a non-Jewish society has long been a challenge; the ways in which we adopt non-Jewish customs and practices says a great deal about who we are and how we manage those dynamics”.

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: