Celebrating the holidays in an interfaith home can be tricky, but it doesn’t have to be. Try our simple tips to keep the peace — and the fun — at the center of your family’s holiday season.
The holiday season can be a struggle for some interfaith families. This has been dubbed the “December dilemma,” and for those in interfaith homes, what to celebrate and how tends to be at the forefront of every December conversation. But family experts say that keeping the focus right where it needs to be — on your family — is simpler than you might think. Solve the December dilemma with our five simple expert-approved tips.
Be clear on what’s important to you
Carla Naumburg, Ph.D., LICSW, is a clinical social worker and mother of two young daughters. She says, “As you head into this holiday season, spend a little time reflecting on how you have spent the holidays through your life. What did you love, and what are you looking forward to reinventing or ditching altogether? As you think about what you want to recreate in your own family, try to get clear on what really matters. Did you really love having a Christmas tree, or was it more about having a focal point for your family celebrations? Was it important to you to receive a present every night of Hanukkah, or did all of the buying and giving and stuff feel overwhelming? Do you prefer big family meals, or more intimate gatherings with just a few people? Can you get clear about what is most important to you, and what will make your holidays as meaningful and fun as possible?”
Jim Keen is a father of two and the author of the book Inside Intermarriage: A Christian Partner’s Perspective on Raising a Jewish Family. He says, “Without talking through the difficult issues with your spouse, your chances of working out problems become pretty slim. Communication is the process by which your feelings get put on the table. How would you ever know that your wife has a problem with your parents giving the kids Christmas presents during Hanukkah if she never told you? Communication is also the process by which ideas form. When you and your spouse are able to talk about your problems, you can come up with solutions that both of you can agree on.”
Debi Gilboa, M.D., is a parenting expert, keynote speaker, author and mother of four. She says, “Make a list with the two holidays at the top and a list of observances and traditions. Have your family pick which ones to continue or try, and maybe research a new one, such as how it’s celebrated in another country.”
Keen says, “Once you start to learn more about your partner’s religion, don’t stop there. Involve yourself in your interfaith family’s rituals and celebrations. Go to services together as a couple or family. Help your husband pick out a new ornament for his Christmas tree. By taking an active role, you not only make your spouse feel good, but you also will give yourself a great feeling of satisfaction. There is no better way to feel included than to participate. Celebrating and learning together bonds the marriage and creates family traditions.”
Continue the conversation
Naumburg says, “Keep talking about how things are going — as you’re celebrating, and even after the holidays are over. Don’t forget to debrief with your partner about how he or she is feeling, what worked and what didn’t work. You might even consider making some notes to look back on for next year.”