So, you’re part of an interfaith family. Being part of one is a beautiful thing–with the meeting and merging of different cultures and faiths–but that doesn’t make it any less complicated. Perhaps you’ve ironed out this whole holiday thing with your kids and spouse, but maybe you’re still unsure of how to figure it out with your in-laws.
As we’ve discussed before, many of our readers are in interfaith marriages, many with a spouse who is Christian, or have extended family who are. So this situation may be something you’re dealing with too.
A reader recently reached out for some in-law advice, asking us: “My husband isn’t Jewish, but we’re raising our kids Jewish. My in-laws want us to come celebrate Christmas at their house. How should I handle that?”
So, we went to Facebook and got advice from you, our readers:
1. “I’d say go for it. Hanukkah is over, and while the kids aren’t Christmas-kids, their grandparents celebrate it. Nothing wrong with letting them spoil their grandkids, as long as the kids understand the situation. Just make it clear that you won’t take the kids to church.” -J
2. “Go. Enjoy. Especially in times like we live in now, we all need to celebrate each other’s holidays. And next year, invite your in-laws to Hanukkah. And Rosh Hashanah. Celebrating and showing love for each other is how we live together. It does not mean we give up our beliefs and traditions. It just means we can share them.” -E
3. “This is all about how you message it to your kids. Look, grandparents just want to spoil their grandkids no matter what the holiday. And any holiday feels a little more empty without the grandkids. As long as you have the talk beforehand with the kids (and this talk should be reiterated throughout the year especially around the holiday season), and say “we are a Jewish family and we celebrate Hanukkah, but we are happy to take part in grandma and grandpa’s celebration.” Ask your in-laws if they can wrap the presents in Hanukkah paper.” -R
4. “I’m Catholic and my husband is Jewish. We’re raising our boys Jewish. They’re a part of your family, and rather than being exclusionary, and pointing out differences in your family, with declining the opportunity to celebrate one of their important traditions with them, go andcelebrate. Give your children the opportunity to learn that not everyone celebrates the same holidays, but that does not make them any less special.” -K
5. “So long as you don’t eat the ham, you’ll be OK! Go, celebrate the season! I was born and raised Jewish–I know who I am and what my beliefs are. My children were raised Jewish, so they too have a strong sense of Jewish values. I don’t see anything wrong with celebrating Christmas, Easter, or any other non-Jewish holiday. My girls have gone to Church (as a guest of their friends). It’s a great opportunity to discuss the differences in religion, and solidifies why we are Jewish. Their friends have come to Temple as our guests too.
We live in a world where there is too much religious hate, so why not open your minds and learn others traditions? It doesn’t mean you’re forgetting who you are, it just means you’re secure enough to celebrate who others are too. Happy Holidays!” -M
6. “I converted to Judaism and we take our children, whom we are raising Jewish, to my parents’ house for Christmas every year. They get Santa presents there, because Santa visits my parents because they celebrate Christmas. We only celebrate Hanukkah at our house, and it’s been pretty easy for our 7-year-old to understand the distinction. (The 2-year-old isn’t quite there yet.)” -A
7. “Do you and your kids go to other people’s houses on their birthdays to celebrate? Or would you attend the non-Jewish wedding of friends or neighbors or colleagues? It’s not “your” holiday or religious event, but you can be there to enjoy your friends and family and have fun on their occasion! It’s how I explain things to my kids and they get it. No biggie. They know who they are.” -D
8. “Emphasis in Judaism is upon repairing the world, but not just our part of it–it commands that we treat others with fairness and that we open our tents. It prides upon continuous learning…your children have the opportunity to embrace these teachings, and gain both understanding and strength in your families differences and invitation of warmth, so go.
The challenge is ensuring that both the hosts and guests respect the traditions of the other, and it will take continuous communication and reinforcement, but I believe the positives will outweigh the negatives. Make sure to extend a return invitation next year when you light the candles and make the latkes.” -D
Do you have tips you want to share? Share with us in the comments below.