Guest blogger Jennifer Kogan is a clinical social worker who provides counseling and support for parents and families in Northwest D.C.
The holidays can be a stressful time for any parent but what happens when each parent observes a different religion? This year, Chanukah and Christmas overlap thereby adding an extra challenge for interfaith parents. Is there a way to balance two religious traditions in one home? The answer is a resounding yes, if you take a thoughtful team approach to the holiday season. Below are some suggestions for celebrating the interfaith way:
1. Make a date ahead of time to talk with your partner about your vision for the holidays. Starting early reduces tension and sets the stage for approaching the season as a team.
2. Be open to learning about each other’s religious backgrounds. Read or talk about the meaning and the history of your partner’s holiday along with the symbols and rituals that accompany it. If you have a visceral reaction such as a strong aversion to Christmas trees, try to examine this yourself before you talk it over with your partner. Exploring your own feelings first will make your conversation less reactive.
3. Call up and examine the childhood memories that you cherish the most. Is it the different kinds of cookies your mom baked well in advance of Christmas? Playing the dreidel game? The scent of a Christmas tree? Latkes frying on the stove? Reading stories or singing songs with family? Share these with your partner so he or she knows that they are important to you.
4. Think about and discuss the traditions that you already share as a family. The way you commemorate your child’s first day of school, birthdays, and even vacations sum up rituals that you have created. Together, you can find ways to establish new family traditions that encompass what means the most to each of you.
5. Break down how you will celebrate together. For example, will you give presents each night of Chanukah? What will happen when Chanukah and Christmas are on the same night? Will you go to church or stay home? Will your extended family be involved? If yes, what will that look like?
6. Finally, let grandparents and other family members know that you have made decisions that are best for you and your family. Explain to them how and where you plan to celebrate the holidays so they are not surprised. Should they have a problem with what you have determined, stand firm and let them know that you love them but this is what is right for your family.
For more hands on help on incorporating both faiths, check out The Interfaith Family Project Of Greater Washington. IFFP is an independent community of interfaith families and others committed to sharing, learning about, and celebrating Jewish and Christian traditions. It is the only interfaith organization of its kind in the country.
–Posted by Jennifer Kogan, LICSW