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Observing the Holidays as an Interfaith Couple

Developing Holiday Traditions in an Interfaith Marriage


The winter holiday season is often called the "December Dilemma" by both religious and public institutions. How you as an interfaith couple decide how to celebrate the December holidays will most likely reflect your communication skills and how you deal with other difficult issues in your marriage.

The Value of Family Traditions and Rituals

The value of family traditions and rituals during holidays and other family celebrations is widely accepted. Familiar traditions create positive and meaningful memories, give a feeling of belonging, establish a sense of identify, have great emotional significance, convey values, give a sense of continuity, and give an understanding of cultural roots.

Traditions Can Create Problems in an Interfaith Marriage

However, in an interfaith marriage, the traditions so deeply valued by spouses may create tension, disappointment, discomfort, misunderstanding, hostility, and even anger and hurt in the other partner.

If you as a couple cannot find a way to share, blend, or adapt your holiday traditions so the two of you have a mutually satisfactory plan, one or both of you may have feelings of loss and guilt.

Discuss Your Traditions:

    In order for the two of you to create traditions that you both can accept and support, you will need to do some serious talking about the traditions that are important to you. Talk with each other about the importance of holiday practices and observances from your childhoods.

Build a Bridge Between Your Religious Backgrounds:

    This process of building a bridge between your religious backgrounds will involve being willing to view traditions in a new way, letting go of things you thought you couldn't live without, being flexible, caring, sensitive, respecting the traditions and emotional needs of your spouse, telling your stories, and trusting one another's opinions.

Respect the Other Faith:

    Your interfaith marriage relationship will benefit if you can both see the positive aspects of each of your faiths and remember that there are different paths to a fulfilling and meaningful relationship with God.

Stay Strong in Your Own Identity:

    Marriage does not require you to give up being who you are. It is okay to express both what you will and what you won't celebrate and observe during holidays and other special times. If you are secure in who you are, you will not be threatened by the traditions and faith of your spouse.

Avoid Undermining Rituals:

    Don't undermine the importance of special foods and non-religious family rituals such as hanging stockings during the holidays.

Be Honest About Your Interfaith Marriage Concerns:

    Be honest about your concerns of upsetting your relatives, confusing your kids, losing your own identity, not having fun on the holidays, etc.

Don't Procrastinate:

    Don't wait until the holidays are upon you to make the decision on how to celebrate them. It is important to figure out how you will celebrate both secular and religious holidays in each of your faiths throughout the year.

The Importance of Give and Take in Your Interfaith Marriage:

    Recognize that there must be some give and take when it comes to the holidays. If one of you has a sense that the other has "won" or feel pressured, your interfaith marriage will be hurt.

Holidays Should Not be Times of Conflict:

    Agree together to do everything you can to insure that holidays and family celebrations are not times of conflict.

Holiday Solutions and Approaches for Interfaith Couples

Interfaith Holiday Issues with Relatives

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