The holidays are a stressful, exciting time. Extra expenses, travel plans, guests, and gift-giving all put tremendous financial strain on the budget, and for some of us, seeing family can be as much a blessing as it is a burden. Mixed-faith couples face logistical challenges above and beyond the norm as they navigate cultural & religious obligations that are sometimes in conflict. However, it’s also an opportunity as well. Our faiths form an important part of our identity—and celebrating the holidays as a mixed-faith couple can be a deeply enriching experience.
In today’s article, we’ll explore a few useful tips to help harmoniously celebrate the holidays together.
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Explore Sacred Memories
Each of us holds certain aspects of our holiday traditions as sacred. Seasonal foods we crave, ways of decorating the house, and special moments with our families. Take this as an opportunity to teach and learn from each other. Carve out a special time to sit over a nice dinner, cuddle with a glass of wine or hot chocolate, and trade childhood memories. Sharing your joy and excitement with your partner can help bring them into your world and you into theirs.
Mixed-faith couples often feel like a fish out of water when navigating their partner’s religious holidays and family gatherings. Teaching each other about your traditions and their origins may help to mitigate that.
Be Respectful & Empathetic
Our holidays are sacred times—it’s important to be respectful of each other’s traditions. In some cases, those traditions may not include you or may require your participation. While some of these traditions may be strange to you, recognize that they’re sacred. Making a flippant remark about ceremonial outfits or disparaging the holiday treats can cut unexpectedly deep.
By the same token, it’s important for you to be aware of your partner’s discomforts. Remember to check in while they’re out of their element and see how they’re doing. Reassurance and connection in those situations will help them to relax and enjoy themselves. Offer to explain things, and be open to questions.
Compromise & Negotiate
Sometimes, our traditions come with conflicts. Holidays fall on the same day, or certain traditions may interfere with one another. It’s a good idea to get organized well ahead of the holiday season so that you aren’t dashing each other’s expectations or springing upset on each other’s families at the last minute.
Create a list of holiday “expectations” for each other. Think of this as a ‘to do’ list for navigating the holiday season. Talking about these expectations beforehand will help identify scheduling conflicts and potential issues before they become emotionally charged. Once you’ve got your expectations, convert them into an actionable game plan. Remember, these logistical problems are problems to be solved together as a team. Your partner’s problems are your problems as well.
Create & Blend Traditions
Many mixed faith couples end up hosting the holidays themselves. When that’s the case, it’s sometimes necessary to look for ways to create new traditions, or blend existing ones. A holiday feast night that plays host to favorite delicacies from both partner’s backgrounds allows for new tastes and sensations to mix—an evening of religious observation can become a venue for sharing sacred stories in a respectful way.
Sometimes these traditions can be shared with your extended families, but other times they’re just for your blended family. The diversity of your partnership is a beautiful thing—and blending your traditions can bring a whole new kind of music to the holiday season.
Counseling & Support
It’s always tricky navigating the holiday season, but you don’t have to do it alone. If you’re struggling to create a holiday plan, a trained therapist can be a valuable resource in moderating otherwise emotional discussions.
Reach out today if you would like to schedule a consultation for couples or individual therapy so that we can talk about some of the solutions that have worked for our clients.