Celebrating the Holidays as an Interfaith Couple
I was working at my job in a synagogue at the time as the in-house graphic designer when I was wearing a stunning scarf my future mother in law had given to me (I still wear it to this day). It is a beautiful delicately woven fabric with vintage designed dragonflies all over it, and it was the first gift she ever gave to me so it holds such a depth of importance that I will never separate from it. As the years have gone by and I’ve gotten to know her better, I understand the significance of dragonflies to her, so the scarf continues to be even more special.
So you can understand my uncomfortableness when one of the congregants arrogantly corrected me that it was a Holiday gift and not a Christmas gift after being asked where I had gotten it. “You know, because of our people.” After she launched into a self-important lecture on the importance of drawing boundaries between Christmas and Chanukah, I was already fuming. Even though I was seething, I tried to keep my temper as contained as possible. “It was a CHRISTMAS gift, and I have no problem saying that. They are mindful and respectful of my beliefs and the fact she gave me a Christmas gift wasn’t a way to disrespect it, but a way to include me in theirs and the LEAST I could do is show them the same respect they have shown me.” And I stand by that sentiment to this day.
I have never been one to date within my religious pool. Not that I haven’t dated Jewish men, nor do I have anything against dating, but it has never been a prerequisite. I just happened to fall in love with a man who isn't Jewish. I like to think I have been color and religion blind when it comes to who I decide to let in my life. To me, those are just details, not personality and the personality is what I have to spend my time with. Being that I consider my fiance grant the jackpot, it’s pretty easy to look past our differing religious upbringings. While neither of us practices and are more spiritual, we both enjoy the cultural aspects of each other's backgrounds which includes the holidays.
I have had people ask me “how do your parents feel knowing that you aren’t dating a Jewish man?” I’ve even had some tell me it’s ok he isn't Jewish because I am and since I’ll be the mother, our children will also be Jewish. Am I the only one who hears how ridiculous that is? I understand the importance of my background and Jewish heritage, but I don't think I will be ruining and dirtying my children by making them with a non-jew. I know I have gotten a little off topic, but this has been a form of prejudice we have encountered consistently throughout our relationship, and I guess I needed to get it off my chest.
Celebrating the holidays as an interfaith couple comes down to one simple thing: mutual respect. It isn’t about just him or just me or who’s background takes precedence over the other. If neither of us could accept what the other celebrated, then we would have been wrong together from the start and that would be a whole different type of blog post about how to great out of that kind of relationship. Our mutual respect for one another isn't just limited to December; we make sure to practice it all year round. If I limited myself to the men in my shul, I never would have met grant, and that would have been a lost opportunity of a lifetime I would always regret without even realizing.