Holidays can be both a wonderful and a difficult time with all of the family time and navigating the different traditions and celebrations that you and your spouse or your ex-spouse may do. When you are part of an interfaith family, there are even more considerations to navigate in terms of what and where you celebrate different holidays. This can become even more difficult to navigate if you are part of a blended family where there may be many different holidays and traditions to celebrate. As someone who is in an interfaith relationship (and has been for many years) while it can be something we have to navigate, I’ve also found that it can be great for not having to worry whose family we celebrate on which holidays with. I’m Jewish, and my partner, while not religious, does celebrate Christmas (and kind of Easter). So, we’re able to enjoy Christmas with his family every year and find other times that we celebrate holidays with my family. There is less pressure for me to be home with my parents during Christmas because it is not an important time of the year for us and frees us up to spend that time with his family.
The most important part of navigating any interfaith relationship and especially around the holidays is communication, which is one of the essential components of navigating any relationship. In this case, communication is key to understanding what your partner and his/her family’s holidays, celebrations, and traditions are and what is expected of you. For some people around Christmas, that may involve going to mass or that maybe family dinners or events. Understanding what your partner wants to do and what you’re expected to be a part of, it is important to make sure that you’re comfortable with the holiday celebrations and know ahead of time what to expect. I know for me, going to mass is not something that I would feel comfortable doing. Having grown up Jewish, however, celebrating Christmas at home with his family, making meals together, and celebrating that way is something I am comfortable with and have grown to enjoy and look forward to. Making sure you communicate with your partner early on makes sure that you can navigate anything that you’re not comfortable with and figure out how to make it a smooth and enjoyable holiday season.
If you have a blended family, then figuring out blending not only traditions but also different religions and holidays can be even more difficult as there are more players to think about. Again, planning is key, and it can also be essential to think about what new traditions you and your family want to implement. Sometimes instead of trying to do everything you used to do and feeling like it’s too much or stresses everyone out, you can figure out what traditions you want your new family to have. This can be a blending of what each of your families used to do, or this can be ultimately new traditions and celebrations that become a part of your family moving forward. Even if you don’t want to start completely fresh, coming up with something as a family is an excellent way for everyone to feel involved in the decision making and want to enjoy the holidays.
If you need help figuring out how to navigate interfaith holiday celebrations, contact West Coast Family Mediation Center and one of our mediators can help.
by: Amanda Singer