How do you navigate the Holiday Season and other holidays in an interfaith family?
Ooh, the dreaded Holiday Season. I think this one is hard for any person who has converted from Christianity to another religion or spiritual practice. Celebrating Christmas is totally ingrained in my brain, it’s part of my cultural history and it HARD TO SHAKE. And when I first broke away from the church I really wanted to go cold turkey. I was ready to completely stop celebrating Christmas, and that meant no more sending Christmas cards, no Christmas carols, no tree decorating, nothing. It’s not that I didn’t like the holiday! It was really my own way of separating myself from Christianity. And what better way than to quit Christmas, the most celebrated christian holiday on the books (let’s be honest, Easter doesn’t really compare). I wanted to really commit myself to my new-found pagan religion and make Sabbats a priority over other holidays. It was really a way of saying, “I’m pagan! Not Christian!” I even wrote about it on my other blog, to really drive the point home.
It totally backfired.
And it wasn’t just the backlash from family and friends that made me rethink my position– although it was a little exhausting having to explain over and over that no, I didn’t hate Christmas, and no, I didn’t hate Jesus, and no, I didn’t think I was being blasphemous. Couldn’t they see that I didn’t want to celebrate a holiday that that no longer belonged to me? It felt, at the time, that by celebrating Christmas I was celebrating Christianity and identifying myself with that faith. I wanted to create my own traditions totally separate from all of that. I wanted to solidify my commitment to my spiritual path, and create the same feelings I had for Christmas to Yule or other winter holidays. And although I don’t have children yet, I was keeping my future offspring in mind as well– I didn’t want them to anxiously wait for Santa to bring them toys or to sing Christmas Carols about the birth of Jesus, I wanted them to grow up immersed in a pagan experience, so when they looked back at their childhood they remembered their pagan roots fondly and wanted to pass it on to their own children.
There were quite a few people who just did not get that AT ALL. I think they felt as if I was rejecting them by not celebrating Christmas (which was not my intention at all). Because for my family, Christmas is about celebrating togetherness. It is about showing people you care, and eating good food together and singing songs together. It’s about family.
It’s also about Jesus.
But it wasn’t just the complaints that got me. It was the fact that in all honestly, I love Christmas. It’s a mega holiday! So many happy memories from my childhood are from celebrating Christmas and the “Holiday Season”. Driving through town to see all the decorated houses (seriously guys, I live 4 blocks from Christmas Tree Lane), drinking eggnog and hot chocolate, decorating the whole fucking house– fake snow, multiple Christmas trees, window trimmings, just all out. We have at least for storage boxes full of Christmas stuff, not including lights and trees. And Christmas carols? I have a whole playlist dedicated to Christmas music. I’ve spent most of my life singing sacred music in school, I know many carols by heart (and probably in at least two part harmony).
The point is, there are a lot of things about Christmas that I like. Even the kinda religious parts. I’m definitely not Christian, but those traditions have deep meaning to me. And I tried giving them up, I really did. But it turns out that some of them are just too great to let go. And at some point in the game I realized that they weren’t just important to me, they were also important to Kourtney. Now, she’s not christian either, but she celebrates Christmas as a secular holiday (because yes, Christmas is religious and secular; just embrace the paradox) and she was not actually ready to give it up. Honestly, it was kind of a jerk move to expect her to do so. Over the years, we begun to compromise. She still celebrates Christmas, and I participate on a small scale. Meaning, I don’t give Christmas presents (and I don’t ask for/expect presents, either), I don’t send out Christmas cards, and I don’t decorate my personal space with nativity scenes or Santas. However, I help decorate our public spaces with all of our holiday stuff– including Santas and angels and menorahs and yule logs, and even Black Jesus (my mother’s nativity set). And I will sing carols and I will eat good food. I tend to stay away from the religious part of the holiday, but I embrace the secular part.
And since marriage is full of compromise, Kourtney helps me celebrate my other winter holidays (Hanukkah and Yule, at the moment). Last year she lit the candles for Hanukkah and I sang the blessing. She gives me space for solitary ritual, but also participates when I ask her to, when I need that extra energy. She helps me cook our holiday feasts (especially Samhain– although we call it our Harvest Feast so our guests don’t think they’re attending some devil worshipping party). It’s actually pretty easy to keep an interfaith house when your partner is open and willing to 1) try new things and 2) respect your boundaries.