How shall the holidays be?
So we got married 10 years ago with what we call a “Rogue Rabbi” and a lenient minister. It was not so easy to find both a rabbi and a minister who would marry two people in an interfaith ceremony, neither of whom were converting, and neither of whom would lie and say that we were going to raise our kids in one faith. No judgement if you did that. I get it. This is not uncommon. Because it is so darn hard to find religious officiants from your faith who do not ask you for the faith of your unborn children. It’s okay. We found a couple. I am a preacher’s kid, so you know I had to have a minister. And, I am a preacher’s kid, so you know I had to have a Rabbi for my husband. Faith and faith traditions are important and there was no way I was throwing Judaism or Christianity down the tubes on our wedding day. I thought planning an interfaith wedding was tough. Then we had kids. Wowza. Things got a lot more confusing.
I should tell you all about our experience raising interfaith kids sometime. I heard on NPR that close to 50% of Jews are now marrying outside of the faith, so we are not alone. I bet close to 100% of people know an interfaith couple and their kids and have questions about how they do it and why they do things and such. I know that interfaith couples wonder how other people are doing things. Here’s the thing. At least for us, the winter holidays are not the tough ones. Hanukkah and Christmas don’t clash in our home. This is a time of giving to others, of giving thanks for all of our blessings, for lighting candles and celebrating the miracles in our faiths.
We shall start with these and ease into the much more difficult Easter and Passover season another time.
Our Rules for Celebrating Hanukkah & Christmas
1. Say All the Blessings. No lazy moms and dads here. Even when the kids were very little, we lit the candles with them and they attempted the Hebrew blessings. Children attempting Hebrew blessings is one of the cutest things ever. Get yourself invited to a night of Hanukkah next year. Not only is the story of the miracle of the oil and the Maccabees a good one, but watching their friends celebrate something different is good for kids.
2. Read, Learn and Appreciate Everything. We have fantastic Hanukkah books and Christmas books and we read them all. We talk about being a light in the world and fire and how important it was and is for heat and cooking and such and how every baby is a miracle but this baby was very special because he changed the world. Yes, we read THE Christmas story. Oh yeah, we read about Santa too. Some of the classic stories are too good. And next year I think Sophia will be old enough to learn about the Swedish Christmas traditions and Saint Lucia. She will rock dressing in a white robe with candles on her head (because see, she has so much candle experience) and delivering Ross and me mulled wine in bed. It’s all about taking in as much as you can from your family’s rich history and making it part of your own.
3. Answer Any and All Questions Honestly but With Tact: For the first few years, this wasn’t an issue. There really were no questions. Now, Sophia is 7 and Miles is 5 and they go to an Episcopal school so there are questions. Too many. But we answer them. But we don’t give grown up answers. Here is the thing with being an interfaith family. Faith is hard for people from the day they are born until the day they die. Whatever faith you have or do not have is due to a decision and a path. We are on this path our whole lives. A young child cannot fully understand the long history of faiths or the Trinity or even the religious strife. Their questions are often answered with true information about what different faiths believe. When they ask us pint blank about what we believe, we tell them. We also tell them that our faith and holiday traditions are something we pass on to them, but faith cannot be passed on. Faith is in their heart. They will one day choose what they believe, as every other person on this planet must do.
4. Cook Everything: My husband and my mother and my brother cook it all. Jewish, Christian, American, just good. We’ve got Latkes and Matzo ball soup and turkey and stuffing and green bean casserole. I will tell you, since marrying a Jew, I have learned that Chinese food on Christmas is the most brilliant idea ever. I saw the joke on Facebook…it is true.
5. Light It Up Baby: Lights on the menorah, lights on the tree, candles everywhere, lights on the house…lights make everything better.
6. Decorate for Both Faiths and Families: I was never much of a holiday decorator until I had kids and they wanted to make the house sparkle so much. See above with the lights. Now, I love to let the kids put “Hanukkah” ornaments on the Christmas tree and hang garlands for both and basically just enjoy all the excitement. Also, I am not a big red and hunter green gal so we go with a lot of turquoise and pale green and silver and gold. This means everything goes together. Yes, that kind of thing makes me incredibly happy.
I posted this photo to Instagram and I said, and these words I mean from the bottom of my heart.
The kids chose to put the My Tree Topper on their tree. It’s not easy to be #interfaith but we love giving them both of our faith traditions. We are so blessed! Two people, two faiths, two hearts, two Christmas trees and three kids. Happy Holidays!
Finally, have fun celebrating two holidays!
For a history nut like me, our faiths are not only what we believe in but a core part of our family traditions. We are teaching our kids what we believe and letting them learn and form their faith. What we give them is our history and our love, for them to take with them wherever they go.
Interfaith Hits Shark Tank
See the tree topper my kids put on their tree? This Friday, Shark Tank fans will learn how Morri Chowaiki blends his interfaith family as he pitches the Sharks with his creation: the Hanukkah Tree Topper. Join@MyTreeTopper for a twitter party leading up to Shark Tank on Friday, December 13. The twitter party will be hosted from 8-9 EST (Shark Tank begins at 9) using hashtags #MyTreeTopper and #SharkTank. Prizes include a $100 Master Card Gift Card. Join in to talk about your holiday traditions.
Got any questions for an Interfaith Mom?
Can you share how your celebrate, interfaith or not? Let me know in the comments.
Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Hanukkah Tree Topper, in association with Katadhin.