Dear Miriam | COVID Complicates Interfaith Celebrations

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Dear Miriam,

Historically, our interfaith household doesn’t have Christmas inside our own house; we go to the in-laws. But this year is different and I am not sure what to do to make Christmas good for my spouse while not crossing my own boundaries.

Signed,


COVID Christmas

Dear Christmas,

Many interfaith families find themselves in just this situation this year: A solution that’s always worked in the past for keeping Christmas compartmentalized just isn’t an option this year. There are likely conversations that you haven’t had to have before that you’re finding yourself facing this year. Maybe you don’t even know what questions to be asking of yourself or your spouse.

Take a deep breath and remember you’re not alone. Nothing about this year’s holidays are the same for anyone as anything we’ve celebrated before. Based on the requests for trees and decorations in my local Buy Nothing Group, it sounds like dozens of people just in my neighborhood are celebrating Christmas at home for the first time this year. It’s all unprecedented for all of us, uncharted territory and all that.

I would encourage you to start by asking your spouse what really matters about Christmas this year. Is it a tree? Or special foods? Connecting with family, singing carols or something more amorphous that can’t be captured no matter how accommodating and supportive you try to be? Is there something your spouse has always wanted to do for Christmas but hasn’t been able to because you haven’t celebrated at home with just your immediate family?

Maybe this year provides an opportunity for making new traditions together. Listen deeply to your spouse’s answers, and try to keep your own hesitations about Christmas out of the discussion, at least at first.

Remember how you felt during Rosh Hashanah this year and how your spouse was there (or wasn’t) for you under unimaginable circumstances. Remember that this is only one year. If you do agree to have a tree or other Christmas decorations in your home this year, you’re not committing to something for every year moving forward. If you tell your spouse that a tree is totally outside your comfort zone, ask what else you can do to try to make the holidays special.

Finally, don’t try to take this on all by yourself. I’m glad you reached out to me, but you may need more support than my brief answer can provide. There are other interfaith families trying to figure out the same questions, and if you have friends in a similar situation, ask them how they’re handling it.

18Doors, an organization committed to supporting people in interfaith relationships, has tons of resources on their website as well as rabbis available to talk to who are experts in these issues.

There is no one right way to handle anything during this crazy year, and you, your spouse and the rest of us are all just trying to do our best to get through.

Be well,

Miriam

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