The holidays are a wonderful time of celebration, giving, and spending time with family. However, for some they're also a time of great stress; especially when you don’t see eye-to-eye with your loved ones and you practice a different set of beliefs (or non-beliefs) all together. Being an interfaith couple already presents challenges, but it’s even tougher this time of year. That’s why we decided to ask a few interfaith couples to share their biggest holiday struggles.
Although these days I’m married to a fellow agnostic-atheist, I’ve navigated the waters of an interfaith relationship in the past. I dated a Muslim man for two years, and although he wasn’t exactly devout, the holidays were different. He didn’t really share my enthusiasm for Christmas, which I was always ecstatic about thanks to my Catholic upbringing. Conversely, he never really wanted to share much in regards to the holidays that were important to his family, like Eid and Ramadan. I can only imagine how much more complicated that would’ve become had we ended up having children together.
While I don’t really have a defined faith, I do love celebrating holidays. I like celebrating both Christmas (due to my upbringing) and Yule (because I feel more of a connection to pagan traditions than others). My husband doesn’t care much for the holidays either way, which does make it complicated for me at times. Still, he respects the ways I celebrate holidays and is willing to be supportive. In the end, I think that’s the most important thing about dealing with the holidays when you don’t see eye-to-eye with other family members, regarding your faith or otherwise: find someone who is supportive, and hold onto them.
“So all through the year, I help organize all of the Jewish celebrations in our house. This year, we even hosted Rosh Hashanah and I did all the cooking and all the prayers. This time of year. I make a big deal of Hanukkah, get and wrap eight presents for the babies and my partner.
In the past, I've also gotten gifts for his family. Christmas is a big deal to me. I love it, but my husband won't even help decorate the tree, put it up, or take it down. He doesn't help with anything on Christmas day except opening his presents. He does always get me something for Christmas, either.
Easter he just ignores. I normally go to a service on my own. He never comes. I went to multiple synagogue services before we got married.
When we got married, I did convert. For me, I think the similarities in religion far outweigh the differences, so being a specific religion doesn't mean so much to me. But he wanted to get married in a synagogue, so I converted. We talked about, even with my Rabbi that did my conversion, that I would continue to celebrate these holidays as they are meaningful to my family and by extension me.
The thing that I find infuriating is that neither of us is overly religious. Hence him being OK with me not being Jewish when we got together and my reform Rabbi being OK with me continuing to celebrate Christmas. But when it comes to the specific holidays, he just won't get involved. Won't stop me from doing it, even with the kids, but won't join in.”
“To be frank, the biggest struggle in my family is mundane. The logistics of coordinating various church schedules gets harder when holidays come into play. I'm still trying to figure out how we'll fit three services and lighting the first Hanukkah candle into one evening.”
“My husband converted and we do a mish-mash of holiday traditions, but it hasn't really been a struggle. Like, we go to mass with his family Christmas Eve because that's their thing and our religion doesn't do a service unless Christmas falls on a Sunday. So, there has been interfaith conflict, but not so much when it comes to Christmas.”
“For us, there's not a lot of conflict around Christmas, as we agreed to allow our children to explore their own faith without pushing. [My partner] celebrates Christmas, even though he doesn't believe. He doesn't want me to dress [our child] in anything with crosses or nativity scenes, and I respect that. In turn, he goes to Christmas services with me and helps manage the kids so that I can enjoy the service with minimal interruptions.”
“My husband is Wiccan and I'm some kinda weird earthy agnostic-like creature. Our struggle this year was travel. I'm in Dallas and he's in Cheyenne. He’s supposed to be coming, but he celebrates Yule and I add a secular spin to my family of origins’ Christmas. We don't know when he can get here. His holiday with his group is the 22nd I believe and, as you know, Christmas is the 25th. It sucks.”
"I'm Catholic but my partner is Agnostic and I've been trying to get her to come with my to midnight mass forever. I went one year by myself but I've skipped the last couples of years. While I'm not super religious, it means a lot to be there because it's a tradition I had with my family growing up and I want to share it with our growing family. Maybe this year."