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Ask Dr. Mayim: How do I embrace Christmas?

A Zen Buddhist wonders how to embrace her multicultural family's traditions
By Mayim Bialik     Published on 12/17/2018 at 10:41 AM EDT
Rawpixel; Dove Shore

Through Grok Nation, my YouTube channel and my social platforms, I get so many questions about a variety of topics: parenting, breastfeeding, veganism, Judaism, acting and more. That’s why I launched Ask Dr. Mayim, an advice column on Grok Nation where you can ask me questions about things going on in your life and I’ll give you my best, honest opinion.

In this week’s Ask Dr. Mayim, I try to help someone looking to embrace her family’s Christmas traditions, despite her not being Christian. Read the question and my advice below; at the end, you’ll also find out how you can submit your own questions for Dr. Mayim!

(You can read all the past columns here.)

Dear Dr. Mayim,

I am a Zen Buddhist amongst a family who is mostly Christian. It’s part of our family tradition to celebrate Christmas. We get a tree, decorate, give gifts, fill stockings, and have a dinner together. It’s okay with me to celebrate anything with my family, but I don’t feel connected to the basic beliefs of this religious tradition anymore. Even the secular decorations and traditions feel like they don’t fit. I just kind of feel like I’m obligated to go through the motions of this holiday. However, I would never ask them to give up or change what they do because I know these traditions mean a lot to them. I was just wondering if you have advice for how I can embrace and incorporate my beliefs so that I can regain some of the joy of this season—and connect with my family based on what we share in common.  

Not Seeking Santa

Dear Not Seeking Santa,

First of all, I appreciate your desire to both maintain your individual choices and path and to find a way to honor your family’s as well. This is a very tricky thing to do. In my family, we have a few non-Jews and I know they feel left out at Hanukkah celebrations and such, and I also know it can be uncomfortable to be around things that don’t provide meaning for you.

Second of all, I don’t hear in what you described that you are being asked to “give up or change” what you do. Being part of something other people find of value is loving and supportive. I know that in Orthodox Judaism, it is frowned upon to go to churches (even for weddings of family who marry out of our tradition), and there are even ramifications for some. I am not aware of these restrictions that are legally binding in Zen Buddhism, so I would say this is a wonderful opportunity for you to seize on your source of compassion. Know that things may have value for others and not for you and that’s OK.

In addition, the “true” spirit of the holidays is that it fosters situations where we can model our values. You can do this with love, your presence, and pitching in with ways to help such as cleaning dishes or cooking. Those are “non-denominationally bound” activities and they also can help take your mind off of the things you may not be such a fan of. (I often spend my time at parties helping out in the kitchen!)

Finally, I am not sure how long you have been a practicing Buddhist, but from my studies of Zen Buddhism, I know that suffering comes from attachment, right? Practice letting go of your attachment to outcomes and expectations. Know that the true Oneness in the universe comes from shared moments of love and connection. And those know no religious or cultural bounds.


Want to ask Dr. Mayim for advice? Email your question to, and she may answer it an upcoming column.

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