Getting Real: Dealing With Holiday Baggage As An Interfaith Family

Passover
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Passover is almost here. Bagels are not kosher for Passover, but curry is.  Discuss.

In a mixed family, holidays are both amazing and tough. They are amazing because we get to share traditions with each other and create new traditions as a family. We love our families, so getting together for holidays is fantastic. The baby loves his cousins and aunties and uncles and Nana and Grandma and Grandpa(s).

That’s the easy part.

Adam: Holidays are tough because Tabitha and I have expectations of each other, some of which are spoken, some of which are assumed, but all of which are steeped in years of experiencing our own traditions.

When it’s our holiday (the holiday associated with our upbringing), we feel that our traditions are the norm and the ONLY way to celebrate the holiday. Something interesting happens when it’s holiday time. The one whose holiday it is gets excited, preps heavily and sets unspoken expectations for the other one. The one who did not grow up with the holiday gets uncomfortable and often rebels.

I’m much more connected to my religion on a practicing level than Tabitha is to hers, but she has stronger connections to G-d than I do (I have the superstition about not writing out G-d, but that’s for another post). That said, we have similar views on the role of religion in our family. We want it to be practiced, but in an open way. We want to be traditional but we don’t like religion shoved down our throats. We also want to have the freedom to question everything. While religion was something that was a key part of how I grew up, it was up to me how/if/when I wanted to practice. I decided to go back to school and get a degree in Rabbinic literature (Talmud), because I love to explore, discuss and contemplate religious law.

For Tabitha, it was the opposite.

Tabitha: I did have religion shoved down my throat. We were forced to recite prayers daily and G-d (I’ve now adopted Adam’s way of referring to G-d in writing) was seen as this restricting element behind everything I wanted to do but couldn’t. Often, these prayers were thinly veiled critiques of our commitment to Christ. As I got older and had questions, it got progressively worse as my list of transgressions grew. They were often brought up in prayer. I remember being a teenager and having to repeat prayers after my parents because they didn’t think my prayers were appropriate. Fast forward to being an adult. I react strongly to any perceived attempt to guide me towards a spiritual system. I now know factually that the Christianity I grew up with is not the way it is meant to be practiced. I still strongly identify as a Christian and have found communities with values that align to mine. One of the things I love about Judaism, though, is that nobody preaches to me or tries to convert me. It’s a calm, community-oriented energy of togetherness. I can enjoy it without believing it and no-one in our family really cares either way. Every holiday is hard for me, though, because I often forget to remind myself that I don’t have to participate if I don’t want to. The problem is that, with a son, we want to raise him with both parents present for major occasions. It’s been a struggle to find the freedom to attend holiday events if I want while wanting the baby to see us as a united front in terms of religion.

Adam: For Tabitha, it’s Christmas. She loves getting ready, buying a tree, presents and listening to Christmas music on repeat. For me, it’s Passover. I get the whole house kosher for Passover, taping up cabinets, putting away dishes and covering the Bourbon.

It can get really difficult. We both lead really busy lives and sometimes, those unspoken expectations can lead down a slippery slope. It usually ends with us having to hash it out days before the holiday. Our commitment to our marriage is what keeps us going. In the end, we see the holiday for what it is, a good time with family, food and fun. It takes time and some tough, important conversations, but we both end up having a ton of fun, no matter which holiday it is.

Chag kasher v’sameach.

Happy Passover

2 thoughts on “Getting Real: Dealing With Holiday Baggage As An Interfaith Family

  1. This is awesome. You guys are great. Great as independent and even better as a couple. I know Suzanne and I are sometimes on different pages as we mesh our interfaith upbringing of children.

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