Saturday, January 14, 2012

The December Dilemma

For us, the winter holidays are about all of the celebrations, not just ours.

Dear New Mamma,  I too live in an interfaith home, and I joined with my husband when my children were 2 and 4 years old. I am invited to speak every year on an interfaith panel in our area called "the December Dilemma".
In short, my choice was to build our spirituality all year, and our holiday family traditions around interior decorating choices that my husband and I discussed, but since I was doing the "work", I asked him to hold his comments until later in January when I would sit down with him and say: "so, how was that wreath for you? Did you miss anything from your childhood that we could add for our children?"
That way, he felt honored and respected and our holiday traditions could evolve. No on the spot conflict if I hung icicles and 5 pointed stars all over the dining room ceiling.
I would like to go outside and see this on my birthday!
When it came to other families- relatives or not- I fielded a lot of questions. My answer was always the same: No, my kids know what our beliefs are, seeing your practices (house, tree, egg nog, menorah) will not confuse them.
 This is no different than my birthday, which is December 23. I open presents whether they have no paper or Christmas paper or birthday paper. It doesn't change the giving. We graciously show interest and participate in anything anyone wants to invite us to or wants to share with us, we offer to share with others- the color of the paper does not measure your spirituality. In my opinion, spirituality has to do with your family's habits most of the year, little to do with the holidays.
I should note that the families I meet at the December Dilemma talk who have the worst trouble are controlling people themselves or have controlling visitors and families. the Jewish child who's Christian grandmother gives her a gold crucifix, the critical mother who gives ornaments to her non-tree raising daughter. I advise a response which is gracious, but not compromising one's beliefs as far as having a child wear jewelry not appropriate for them. I wouldn't let my daughter wear lacy lingerie as a princess dress if she were 5, no matter how pretty she though it was, but I wouldn't make a fuss at the family dinner. I would just say "How thoughtful" and put it in the car. Donate the jewelry to a convent and change your plans next year.
Hope your new family grows crookedly but happy. Be willing to do it wrong sometimes and you will have fun. the 4 year old is now 24 and she is lovely.
regards, Hawk