Holiday Guidelines for Interfaith Parents

Interfaith families struggle to be true to the religions of both parents during the winter holiday season.

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Avoid making a competition out of the holidays. Parents who use presents to show children how wonderful "their" holiday is send the implicit message that it is better to identify with the religion associated with the most gifts.

Help children understand that they can enjoy Christmas and Hanukkah activities without betraying either parent or their religious upbringing. At the same time, use holidays to reinforce children's religious identity. Even children ask each other, "Are you Christmas or Hanukkah?" Children want to be able to have a holiday of their own. If the family celebrates both holidays, help children answer questions with responses such as, "We have Hanukkah at home and visit my grandparents for Christmas" or "We do something for both Christmas and Hanukkah because my mom (or dad) is Christian (or grew up Catholic or Protestant, etc.) and my dad (or mom) is Jewish."

December holidays come around every year. Negotiating ways to create family celebrations rather than struggles is worth the effort. Have a wonderful season this year!

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Dr. June A Horowitz

Dr. June Andrews Horowitz is an Associate Professor in the Psychiatric-Mental Health Department, School of Nursing, Boston College, Chestnut Hill, Mass.