Holidays and Inter-Faith Families
By Frank Kermit
The number of interfaith families is growing. It is likely that you or someone you know has been involved at some point in an inter-faith relationship. Love may be blind, but the challenges some couples face in inter-faith marriages can be very real.
According to Dr Sheila Gordon, president of Interfaith Community, religions aren’t really set up to accommodate people creating households where there are two different faiths. She suggests that parents should discuss with each other, their goals of the religion as it regards their children and what aspects of the religion they want to practice, and what they want to get out of practicing their faiths before bringing their children into it.
Some couples face what has been called the December Dilemma, where multiple faiths have days of celebration around the same time.
Some families try to celebrate each holiday separately on their respective days, but allow for decorations of both holidays to be present the entire holiday season (this avoids the December Dilemma of deciding, for example, if they should put up a Christmas tree or a Menorah).
One inter-faith couple told me that they celebrate both sets of holidays and will let their children decide what faith to follow in the future.
Some families just celebrate all the holidays at once in their own interpretation of mixing traditions together.
Finally, other families make a firm decision that the children will be brought up with one faith and one set of traditions, and the parent from the other faith either gives up a faith, or celebrates the holidays more privately, or with less emphasis even if the children are involved.
Basically, it is important for the couple to decide ahead of time, as much as they can, what they believe would be best, not only for them, but for their kids as well. It is important to keep in mind that managing different holiday celebrations and how to incorporate them into your family’s life is a yearlong process.
One thing that many inter-faith relationships face is a lack of acceptance from family and friends.
An old colleague of mine used to be very out spoken about his stance against inter-faith marriage to the point where he would refuse to attend the weddings of his friends and families if they married outside his religion. This eventually led to a lot of abandonment.
Everyone has an opinion about inter-faith relations, and it may not always be in favor of the loving couple.
If you are entering into an inter-faith relationship, and believe it is heading in the direction of an inter-faith family, be sure you are ready to face opposition that you may not have known you had.
Personally, I find it sad when family and friends are accepting of inter-faith friendships, but not accepting of inter-faith romances.
In fact, in my own practice, the biggest challenge to inter-faith couples is not the couple’s inability to work out the role of religion in their lives and the lives of their children; their biggest challenge is getting close family members on board to support them as they would any same faith relationships.
If there could be just one message I could relate to those parents and other family who abandon a loving inter-faith couple it is this:
The taint of your abandonment will never be removed even if you reconcile later.
More often than not, abandoning family re-enter that couple’s life again in the future, and it usually is because you want to see the children of the new inter-faith family.
Think long and hard before you do something that will never be forgotten. I have yet to meet any abandoner that later claimed it was the right thing to do.
Happy Holidays whatever you celebrate!