I Married a Jew and He Married Me

By December 13, 2013At Home

How shall the holidays be?

Tree Topper Sponsored

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.

Interfaith Holidays

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.

You can also follow My Tree Topper on Facebook and instagram.

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.

Join the discussion 14 Comments

  • Alison

    Brittany, I think it’s wonderful that your children are growing up in an interfaith home, with both parents devoted to teaching both faiths.
    Alison recently posted… Shenanigans (Or What Goes On When The Husband Is Away)My Profile

    • Brittany says:

      It is going to be HARD as they get older though, so maybe this post was a great way for me to dip my feet into the faith discussion. Start with the easy stuff when possible!

  • Elaine A. says:

    Great post, Brittany! Our family is entirely Christian but I think this is SO interesting and I do wish I could be present at a celebration of Hanukkah some day. And bring my kids. It sounds like your family has found wonderful ways to celebrate both set of beliefs and traditions and I think that is just wonderful! 🙂

    • Brittany says:

      You would be welcome here any time. I wish we lived closer! There are actually so many amazing Jewish holidays that can be celebrated in Christian homes. They are based on the Old Testament and are just lovely. I am hoping to post about them this coming year so more people can learn about them.

  • Erica says:

    I love this! Including everything is so much more fun, right? You’re kids are lucky they get to celebrate so much… I know each faith is different, but at the core the holidays (of any sort) are about love, being together and celebrating our blessings.
    Erica recently posted… Comment on Win a Case of Happy Tot Morning Pouches! by melissaMy Profile

    • Brittany says:

      Yes! It is so much fun for the winter holidays. And Judaism is filled with wonderful holidays throughout the year. It is a faith filled with amazing traditions and celebrations. The Easter and Passover season is a lot more complicated, and we find ourselves wondering if we are doing it right all the time. I have struggled to write about it but I would love to start the discussion and find more interfaith families to talk to about all this.

  • […] That’s Vandy!, Brittany shares the family rules for interfaith holidays. (Which should be a good reminder to us all.) “The kids chose to put the My Tree Topper on […]

  • Emily says:

    I grew up in a Christian home but celebrated many Jewish celebrations(my parents lived in Israel for many years and picked them up)I love Hanukkah, Passover, and Shabbat. I have many wonderful memories as a child celebrating. I think it is so wonderful to celebrate both and I plan on raising my kids with both.
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  • Laura says:

    I had NO idea you were a Preacher’s Kid, Brittany! High five! Me too! Did your preacher-parent play a role in your marriage ceremony? I’m a protestant who married and catholic, and while that isn’t as taboo for some people, we were thrilled to find a priest who would help us celebrate our marriage in my Baptist church.

    This was really wonderful to read, Brittany. I am really drawn to these inter-faith conversations and it is beautiful how it is working out in your house.
    Laura recently posted… SupportedMy Profile

  • Greta says:

    I can only imagine how complicated that can get, but your kids are doubly blessed!

  • This is a lovely way to celebrate both. It seems harmonious as far as traditions are concerned.
    Lady Jennie recently posted… My Memoir is Out on Amazon!My Profile

  • How wonderful that you are both teaching your faiths to your children. I love that you celebrate everything. 🙂
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  • Mary Beth Elderton says:

    How wonderful! I taught at an international school some years ago, and we did exactly this—we celebrated everything! We tried all the food. We decorated with all the symbols. We learned greetings and holiday words in as many languages as we could.

  • I just saw Shark Tank last night and I loved the owner’s of My Tree Topper passion. What a great way to celebrate both and let your kids be part of this!

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